Three-quarters of the way through Where's Chaz?, the Re-Theatre Instrument's modern adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, something remarkable happens: All the play's prior bum notes—the atrocious wordplay and the desperate mugging from a cast grappling with a stupid script—decay into the background as actors Jeff Gorham and Melissa Whitney speak with quiet consternation about their characters' love for one another. For a moment, it appears they have forced this wobbly production onto a steadier course—as if the actors hijacked the production, throwing the weak-link dramaturges overboard.

If only. As it were, the same drivel it was their job to flesh out, it's now my obligation to summarize: A bridal shop in downtown Portland is the setting for a madcap weekend of romance gone awry as a scorned head usher John (Kyle Lange) sabotages the budding romance between the best man (Nick Ferrucci) and the wedding planner (Stephanie Blair). Passions and motivations appear out of nowhere, so the play's genuine heat is relegated to the only plot strand with a believable backstory—the broken affair between a professor/groomsman (Gorham) and his former student (Whitney).

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The show's crimes are committed in the much-maligned name of comedy. This is one of those productions where humor is treated as a lesser art—as a green light for self-indulgence. The dimness with which Re-Theatre views the challenge of making people laugh is vividly laid out in a Chaplin-inspired scene featuring Ferrucci's furious change into his wedding tux. This could have been a tour de force if only the showy, high-contrast lighting hadn't gotten in the way, rendering Ferrucci's painstaking movements illegible.

Successful comedy doesn't arrive as an afterthought, it only seems that way. You have to wonder if director Jason Zimbler ever stopped to consider why so much of the silent slapstick comedy he seeks to evoke in this scene was lit flatly for maximum readability. Remember the iconic image of Harold Lloyd dangling from the minute hand of a city clock in Safety Last!? Imagine this same scene set at night and notice how unfunny, even frightening, it becomes. There's gold in them details.

SLAY Film Fest
In person at the Clinton St. Theater 10/29 & 10/30