Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Here we are at last: Artistic Director Simon Godwin intended to program Much Ado About Nothing into his first season for the Shakespeare Theatre Company, but as we all know, that 2019-2020 season didn't exactly end the way we all anticipated, and then the production was delayed again from the 2021-2022 season. But finally, here we are at last, with a familiar story and a snazzy setting and the chance to kick back with Shakespeare's frothiest romcom.
|Photo of Rick Holmes and Kate Jennings Grant in Much Ado About Nothing by Tony Powell.|
Godwin's production is set in a cable newsroom, and the evening is sprinkled with snippets of reports filled to the brim with Shakespearean injokes. It's not clear who wrote these segments (a friend commented, Well, if no one is credited it was probably the dramaturg because that's how that goes), but old cynic that I am, I ended up delighted by them. Partly it's the quality of the jokes, but also it spoke early and well of the cast how assuredly they could deliver each breaking update from King Lear's England and the political maneuverings of Elsinore.
|Photo of the cast of Much Ado About Nothing by Tony Powell.|
Assurance truly is the word; throughout the night, the cast demonstrates an ease in their characters in scenes both public and private, on camera and off. Kate Jennings Grant and Rick Holmes are well matched as co-anchors, rivals, and eventual partners Beatrice and Benedick, and the rest of the ensemble fits well into the bustling world around them of on-camera talent and off-camera crew and producers. In a remarkable feat, especially for a comedy filled with both high status characters and clowns, every member of the ensemble feels like they are part of the same play. Michael Kevin Darnall's Borachio is the most repentant version of that minor scoundrel I've ever encountered, showing both brazenness and true horror when the consequences of his actions become clear. Dave Quay's Dogberry, assisted the night I attended by an adept Terrance Fleming on as Verges, is a standout, keeping his performance both splendidly silly and remarkably grounded.
That balance, so tricky to achieve and yet so vital to a successful performance, is felt often throughout the production. The newsroom set in particular, designed by Alexander Dodge and lit by Donald Holder, feels lush but not ostentatious. Evie Gurney's costumes are a highlight throughout, from the on-air wardrobe that would fit right onto a real-world news set to the best-dressed costume party since Heidi Klum's (seriously, would that we all had a wardrobe team backing us for a fancy dress party).
|Photo of Nicole King, Kate Jennings Grant, and Edward Gero in Much Ado About Nothing by Tony Powell.|