MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING – Written by William Shakespeare; Directed by Kevin Rich. Produced by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, CU campus, Boulder) through August 13. Tickets available at 303-492-8008 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shakespeare seems to have loved to make his audiences laugh. MUCH ADO claims one of the funniest scenes he’s written – second only to the Mechnical’s rendition of PYRAMUS AND THISBE in MIDSUMMER. The adjoining scenes during which the friends of Benedick and Beatrice knowingly gossip about how the two secretly love each other but won’t admit it, if staged well, is screamingly funny. Each of the lovers during their “overhearing” try to hide from the gossipers to get more information. They end up under bushes, behind tapestries and pillars, in fountains, anywhere they can get closer to the gossipers without being seen. Of course, the friends know exactly where they are at all times and lead them on. K.P. Powell and Jessica Robblee literally throw themselves into these roles with gusto.
This production is set in 1920’s Paris as the gentlemen warriors return home in clean uniforms to rest and celebrate with their peers. To perhaps renew old friendships and rivalries. In addition to the light-hearted banter being batted back and forth by Benedick and Beatrice, we also have the more diabolical rivalry between Don John and the gullible Claudio. Don John is the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro, a Prince, and has a sort of “spare heir” hatred of him. He will do anything to humiliate his brother and cause him pain, including convincing the friends, Don Pedro and Claudio, that Hero (Claudio’s wife-to-be) is “disloyal” and unfaithful. But, at heart, this is a comedy. The dark undertones only enhance the giddy happiness when all is resolved and happy endings achieved.
Once again, a tight ensemble has been formed by this company who play well together. In addition to the sly comedy enjoyed by K.P. Powell and Jessica Robblee in the lead roles, we enjoy the gentle innocence of Hero as portrayed by Shunte Lofton wooed by Claudio (Ryan Omar Stack). Sean Scutchins doubles as Balthasar – one of Don Pedro’s soldiers in the first act – and then comes back in the second act to rock the character of Dogberry, a constable who accidentally manages to arrest the fleeing villains in the plot against Claudio. Dogberry is a sort of Don Knotts constable, so full of himself but so obviously dumb about everything. He is called “an ass” by one of the men he has captured and loudly and proudly proclaims himself an ass continually as though it were a mark of distinction. “Give me a medal; I’m an ass!” Sean knows how to make the most of a comic character.
Local actresses Susannah McLeod and Anastasia Davidson also give winning performances as the dastardly Don John and Margaret, a maid to Hero who gets pulled into the plot to discredit her. Even Ellen McLaughlin who plays King Lear on the alternate nights steps into a small part as one of the Deputy Constables who assists Dogberry in his interrogation of the prisoners.
All in all, it’s a delightful evening under the stars with music, ribaldry and fun. The way Shakespeare wanted it to be.
A WOW factor of 8.5!!