Encinitas, CA---Ah! Leave it to Will to tease us with the merriment of seeing Beatrice and Benedick play out their silly love antics leading up to their marriage and then horrify us with the way he treats Honor by her soon to be bridegroom, Claudio when he is blinded by unfounded gossip about his bride.
Then back at us with the witty and spirited Beatrice and Benedick again playing out their fears of love and marriage against a background of a kindly father and uncle, the noble Leonato, acting like a tyrant and jerk towards his beautiful daughter in unimaginable anger as her life hangs in the balance when he assumes the worse.
Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”, now in a fun filled (with few exceptions) romp in the small black box venue at the Performing Arts Space at Clayton E. Liggett Theatre on the campus of San Dieguio Academy through Aug. 17th, and deftly director by Richard Baird, is just that…much ado about nothing.
Here’s what it looks like:
A couple of fools in love, Beatrice and Benedick romp around like two love sick kids pretending not to care about each other while making fools of themselves falling all over themselves doing it.
The nobleman and adoring father Leonato, whose estate is the setting for our story, 1931 Sicily, turns against his daughter Hero, after a vicious rumor is spread about her unfaithfulness happening on the eve of her wedding day to the young army officer Claudio.
Claudio and Leonato manhandle and almost strangle a fragile and unsuspecting Hero at the wedding ceremony when they learn of the so-called ‘deed’. Lucky for her Friar saves her life by keeping her safe in the rectory.
The two blokes responsible, Borachio and Conrad (Patrick Mc Bride and John Tessmer doing double duty) are friends of Don Juan. They are the ones paid by Don Juan to create this mischief and the very same inebriate’s that confess to Dogberry after he apprehends them. (They are not the brightest stars in Shakespeare’s playbook).
Don Juan, the bastard brother of Don Pedro AKA the ‘Prince” (Matt Thompson regal and impressive) and arch enemy of Claudio, is the one stirring up the plot against Hero, Claudio’s intended, by hiring Borachio and Conrad.
Constable Dogberry, in his own inimitable and bumbling way is the one who finds out the truth about their trickery, thus becoming the real hero as he ultimately works the whole mess out in a little over two hours of silliness.
If you loved “I Hate Hamlet” (just recently in the same space), you will be as impressed with Yeager as the loving parent turned bully as you were when he appeared as John Barrymore in “Hamlet” leaping in from out of the blue. Yeager, impressive by his size is equally impressive as he changes course with ease and credibility, causing some discomfort in his actions and attitude toward his daughter when he thinks she betrayed his trust.
The sparring of Beatrice and Benedick done on just about every level of comedy from highbrow to physical to (let’s say) psychological, by two outstanding seasoned actors, Sean-Yael Cox and Shauna Wride, is a hoot to watch. This is where the production shines. I thoroughly enjoyed their over the top hide and seek games.
And if you’ve not seen Shana Wride ever before, ( Critics Circle Award for "Private Lives"), you must. Her calculating facial expressions, which she has down pat, speak volumes. She is so naturally tuned in that watching her, even when she isn’t speaking, you can’t help but to join in on her fun. It is her trademark and the sign of a seasoned comedienne. At least the Bard made one of his characters in this play smart; Wride’s Beatrice is it!
Yael-Cox is another chameleon actor who turns from serious almost homicidal in Intrepid’s last production of “Macbeth” to goofy and silly in ‘Ado’. He is one versatile actor to be reckoned with.
Then there’s the handsome Charles Evans, Jr, as the smug and superior, wronged and soon to be groom, Claudio. Evan’s charms, sings and plays the guitar and looks very tidy in his neatly pressed military uniform, sword swaging from his right side, epaulettes decorating his shoulders and, at first, smitten by just glancing, and then later treating the beautiful Honor (Erin Petersen) like a piece of meat, when he thinks he’s the one whose reputation is being marred, is quite impressive. (Kristin McReddie designed the 1931 costumes and they are nifty looking.)
For her part, Ms. Petersen’s Honor is convincing as the innocent and young babe plucked out of court to marry this young ‘un’ only to be manhandled, physically thrown about and scorned. The only one coming to her rescue is Friar (John Tessmer), a saintly and (the only one) levelheaded soul thrown in to the middle of Shakespeare’s rant.
Don Juan (Danny Campbell) Leonato’s brother is so down and outright angry with his brother, that as his plot sets the stage for the misogynistic treatment of Hero he actually looks smugly pleased with himself. That casts a shadow on this, what begins as a fun filled play play, is really a Debbie downer even though at plays end, while not quite satisfying (at least to this onlooker) does have a happily ever after ending, we think. Campbell, the sad sack looks up to no good, acts up to no good and does a good job at it.
Finally there is Tom Stephenson’s bumbling and righteous Dogberry. He just about steals the show’s second act with his straight-faced humor and seriousness as this little watch boy (Merrick Hanna doing a swell job), following so close behind that he’s barely able to keep a straight face, takes his marching orders from the pro, Dogberry. Strong support also comes from Gerilyn Brault and Amanda Schaar, ladies of the court.
Christopher Renda’s spot on lighting design defines well the moods of the characters, Brian Mackey’s sound design, some live and others recorded, dance /choreographer, Colleen Kollar Smith had a hand in the smooth and lovely dance numbers and Sean Yael-Cox designed the in the round or square if you prefer, space that is as close to the audience as it can get without the audience being a part of the show. For our part, we were seated around the stage in comfy chairs or sofas, similar to the design in “I Hate Shakespeare”. I like it.
After all is said and done, “All Well That Ends Well”.
OK, it’s another play but what the hay?
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Aug. 17th
Organization: Intrepid Shakespeare Company
Production Type: Comedy
Where: Performing Arts Center, 800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas, CA
Ticket Prices: $35.00
Venue: Clayton E. Liggett Theatre