REVIEW: Much Ado, Indeed, Good Times Santa Cruz


Photo by rr jones.


by Christina Waters

Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s three-play festival opens with innovative casting twists

The spectacle of Shakespeare’s most tartly devised couple reluctantly falling in love has charmed audiences for five centuries. And, with provocative casting of central characters, the new Santa Cruz Shakespeare production of Much Ado About Nothing offers its own summer festival charm.

Shakespeare wrote this play at the very epicenter of his inventive prime, borrowing from an Italian tragedy about young lovers who mistakenly stumble into near-fatal deception. Onto the romantic motif of love and broken vows between the governor of Messina’s beautiful daughter Hero (Sarah Traisman) and dashing soldier Claudio (Josh Saleh), Shakespeare grafts his own brilliant invention—man-eating Beatrice (played to the hilt by Greta Wohlrabe), and the man she loves to insult, confirmed bachelor Benedick (Mike Ryan). In other words, two well-matched wits determined not to fall in love.

The juicy repartee between Beatrice and Benedick drives the energy of this production, the opening play of Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s second year. Without grandstanding, Wohlrabe, (Celia in last year’s As You Like It) owns every moment that she’s on stage. She can swagger, cajole, and take great bites out of the chewy text with nimble delivery and effortless bravura. The accomplished Ryan, who is also the company’s artistic director, is an adroit comic actor with flawless physical intuitions. “Ah, what a giddy thing is a man,” he confesses, to our delight. They are the power couple to watch as they weave their mutual discoveries and outrage in and out of the action, helping to pump confidence and expert timing into the evening.


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.


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