The Monroe County Civic Theater opens their summer season in Third Street Park with a tidy production of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" directed by Maria Eagleton.
"Much Ado " is one of Shakespeare's best acting plays. There's the fiery love of Beatrice and Benedick, the pathetic and near tragic love of Hero and Claudio, the dark villainy of Don John and the low comedy of constable Dogberry and the Watch.
Stephanie Dodge made a fetching and spirited Beatrice nicely matched by the boyish misogyny of Bobby Hackett as Benedick. The energy of these two's denials followed by their hesitant bafflement at love is one of the signal triumphs of "Much Ado " I especially enjoyed Hackett's open thrill as he wrestles with this new emotion.
The more dutiful lover, Claudio, was played by John DeBoer. His Hero, Karmyn Guthrie was first a bit of a dumb blond, then a shrilling victim and finally a joyous bride.
The villainous Don John is a character who doesn't get much attention on the page of "Much Ado ". He has few words, but they are bitter and his malice can haunt the stage. Chad Eagleton's Don John was whiney, crabbed and menacing.
Don John is assisted in his villainy by Borachio and Conrade. Usually these fellows are merely props. In the Civic Theater's production of "Much Ado ", director Eagleton has cast them as a dark scheming man and woman with conflicts of their own. The Borachio of Chris Hosler paired with the passionate Conrade of Carmen Fisher generated much more dramatic interest than is common for this pair.
In many of Shakespeare's comedies the low characters, mix up words, but none is so lavishly malaproped as "Much Ado "'s accidental foiler of Don John's plot, Constable Dogberry. Ryan Markle was the grateful recipient of the Bard's largess. Markle with his aid, the redoubtable Verges played by Ben Aldred, and the Watch, of Lisa Hammersly, Phillip Addison and Susan Anderson got most of Saturday night's cheers.
Despite its title, "Much Ado About Nothing" is about something. It's about the transforming, energizing power of love even upon such unwilling subjects as Beatrice and Benedick. As it works on them, they both expand into fuller life and even glow. But it is also a cautionary tale, warning that love can only triumph over skullduggery like Don John's with outside help.
The out door production is skillfully handled. The costumes supervised by Janice Clevenger served their characters and the audience. The minimal props all made sense and the stage crew was smooth in their changes. The amplification was skillfully set up and applied and even the lighting was coordinated with the action.
The Monroe County Civic Theater's production of "Much Ado About Nothing" directed by Maria Eagleton, plays this Friday and Saturday at eight in Third Street Park. Lawn chairs or at least ground clothes and blankets are recommended.
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