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Much Ado About Nothing

Messina, Italy may be many miles from Messina County in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's old West adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, but director Jane Page's impressively detailed production makes it clear that they coexist in emotional space-time.

The action begins with a bang, set off by a slapstick barroom brawl, is filled with Kevin Dunayer's incidental music borrowed from loads of memorable Western TV series and movies, including Bonanza and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, includes a sheriff that's a mix between Gabby Hayes, Wild Bill Cody, and Yosemite Sam, and features a couple of square dances and a cappella airs with a country twang.

Virtually every element of Robert Cothram's set, from the saloon, Spanish mission, and barber shop, down to the horse trough, hitchin' post, and clothes line is utilized to further the plot and aid the physical comedy. This concentrated dose of the frontier is equally reflected in Maureen Carr-Steven's costumes, an interesting blend of period gentry, ranch, plains, and farm.

Photo of Hollis McCarthy as Beatrice and Tony Marble as Benedick
Hollis McCarthy as Beatrice
and Tony Marble as Benedick
Photo Credit: Lou Costy
Tony Marble as Benedick, a trail master, and Hollis McCarthy as Beatrice, the bar and hotel manager, are the jalapenos in this colorful spread, providing the chemistry central to the story: both possesses a mischievous twinkle that fuels their passion and ultimately reveals them as romantics, not the skeptics they would like everyone to believe they are.

In addition to a couple of simple, but impressive rope tricks, Marble's easy going "Aw, shucks" demeanor makes his Benedick a believable cowboy. Beatrice's equally westernized hair-trigger frontier tongue is informed by both her position as a saloon proprietress and by McCarthy's high-strung characterization.

Photo of Dennis R. Elkins as Dogberry, Alan Nelson as Deputy #2, Chaney Tullos as Deputy #1, and J. Buck Jabaily as Verges
Dennis R. Elkins as Dogberry,
Alan Nelson as Deputy #2,
Chaney Tullos as Deputy #1,
and J. Buck Jabaily as Verges
Photo Credit: Lou Costy
Claudio and Hero, however, do not fare as well, with Kip Pierson and Jessie Fisher providing no sparks for a relationship that should serve as kindling for the other romances. Yet this is not enough to put a damper on the festivities: Dennis R. Elkins, as the incompetent sheriff Dogberry, leads of pack of nincompoops that literally tie themselves up with the bad guys they have inadvertently caught; Frank Mihelich and Geoffrey Kent provide strong contrasting work as Don Pedro, the well-intentioned but quick-to-judge wagon master, and Don John, his malevolent brother; James Esely is winning as the gregarious, hard-headed Leonato, proprietor of the hotel and saloon; and Jessica Austgen and Nettie Mae Kraft supply comic relief as Margaret and Ursula, Leonato's barmaids.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's breezy production of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Jane Page, runs in repertory with The Taming of the Shrew, Cymbeline, and Hamlet through August 16th in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre at the University of Colorado. 303-492-0554.

Bob Bows

 

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