Review of Much Ado About Nothing
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Robert S. Currier
For tickets / schedule :
Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University of California
RUN: June 30 – July 23, 2017
RATING: 5 of 5 stars
(June 30, 2017)
Much Ado About Nothing’s musical elements have been brought to the forefront in this creative hoedown of an adaptation. The iconic characters find themselves in the Appalachian mountains on the side of the McCoys during the early 20th Century, with gunslingers, cavalry troops and outspoken ranchers. Jackson Currier’s rustic set design has meticulous attention to detail, from the hay loft to copper distiller for moonshine. Director Robert Currier makes full use of the space, with Beatrice acquiring her disguise from overalls hanging on the outhouse, entertaining dance moves in doorways, and Benedict jumping into a clothes basket to hide, with highly amusing consequences.
The play itself stays firmly to the original, with place names swapped out and the occasional modern adjustment. Billie Cox weaves in original music, based on traditional folk songs, which augment ambience, explain backgrounds of characters, and assist with smooth scene transitions. Rather than feeling out of place, they are comfortably part of the story and setting. Abra Berman’s wide range of costume designs add a sense of fun with colorful farm dresses, Sunday “duds” for the wedding and pastoral masks.
Elena Wright is the finest Beatrice I have had the pleasure of seeing inhabit the role. Her boundless energy and spunk are captivating; it is no wonder that Don Pedro proposes and insists that she was “born in a merry hour.” Her swaggering antics, cigar chewing and use of the spittoon add to her charm—this production is worth attending simply to enjoy her sparkling portrayal. Dameion Brown’s Benedict had a rocky start, most likely due to nerves, but relaxed into the second act, when his natural bearing and well-timed humor carried the day.
The hillbilly Watch brandishing clubs and an oversized baking whisk are kept in a shambling sort of order by the brilliant Barry Kraft as Dogberry with a scattered Verges (Debi Durst) by his side. They manage to capture the two conspirators by accident, leading to an interrogation scene filled with dry wit and saucy interchanges with arrogant Conrade (Lindsey Schmelzer) and a hipster inspired Borachio (Ben Muller).
John the bastard (Clay David) is a difficult character, since he has little motivation for his actions, so Currier chose to emphasize this lack of substance by turning him into a classic mustache twirling villain from a “B” Western. It is so dramatically over-the-top that he is distracting at times, although his rendition of “I’m Bad” is delightful. His knavery might have worked better had it been toned down in favor of balancing with the rest of the cast.
Marin Shakespeare has collected a strong group of actors—Brittany Law’s Margaret is coquettish and handy with a guitar, Leonato (Steve Price) has a heartwarming relationship with his daughter, Hero (Nicole Apostol Bruno), Joshua Hollister’s Claudio is a believable wronged lover, and even the Gardener (John Neblett) is hilarious while puttering about the stage.
Marin Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is a heel tapping shindig celebrating the triumph of love, with a lively cast and inventive setting. Promenade down to the Forest Meadows Amphitheater for a frolicking adventure in romance with the bard.