Performing Arts Monterey Bay, Posted on
Much Ado About Nothing
by Philip Pearce
SANTA CRUZ SHAKESPEARE has just launched its second season with a lively production of Much Ado About Nothing on the UCSC campus.
It’s a play that has had a lot of exposure in recent years. A lush and lavish Ashland Much Ado is running concurrently with this one, and Joss Whedon’s slick 2013 modern LA movie version is still fresh in memory, not to mention Kenneth Branagh’s glitzy late twentieth century screen rendition. In some ways, all that recent popularity is surprising, because it’s not really an easy piece of comedy. There is nothing like the ensemble of memorable and funny supporting characters you encounter in Twelfth Night, As You Like It, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Its working class clowns have always struck me as particularly tiresome. Much that happens calls for some long stretches of suspended disbelief, especially, as in this version, if it’s all updated to World War 2 Europe. And the villain of the piece is a pretty bland and unmotivated kind of baddy to stir up so much cloudy melodrama in the last half of the play.
What audiences always love and what was applauded like a hit number at a rock concert on opening night in Sinsheimer-Stanley Glen is the battle of wits and change of hearts between those sublime lead lovers Beatrice and Benedick. In Mike Ryan and Greta Wohrabe Santa Cruz Shakespeare has a wonderful pair of actors to carry two roles that fully justify all the surrounding ado. Wohrabe’s Beatrice starts out a wise-cracking blend of Rosalind Russell and Ethel Merman and mellows artfully as she is gradually conned into love and marriage with Benedick. She has a skill in pointing a comic line
Tickets on sale now for the 2015 season, which features three outdoor productions, starting with the wickedly romantic Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing, opening July 3; followed by David Ives’s modern adaptation of the wickedly hilarious 17th century farce, The Liar, opening July 24; and Shakespeare’s wicked tragedy, Macbeth, opening August 7. Plus, SCS continues the tradition of its intern-showcasing Fringe production with four performances of the wickedly festive comedy The Rover, starting August 18.