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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Much Ado About Nothing as performed by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN

Much Ado About Nothing (Barnes & Noble Shakespeare)Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a review of the performance by the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN.

Think of the couples on TV with sexual tension. Sam and Diane on Cheers, Ross and Rachel on Friends, Booth and Bones on Bones, Castle and Beckett on Castle. They all have their roots in this play, Much Ado About Nothing (which could be the subtitle for Seinfeld).

This version of the play is set in Italy in the early 20th century. The war is over, and the troops, led by Don Pedro, are coming home. They all meet at the house of Leonato, the governor, who lives there with his sister, Antonia, and his daughter, Hero. Among the troops is Claudio, who wants to marry Leonato's daughter, Hero. Also is Benedick, who has a tortured history with Beatrice. Also along is Don John, Don Pedro's brother and loser of the recent war. Leonato invites them all to stay at the mansion.

While there, Don Pedro agrees to not pursue Hero since Claudio is in love with her. Don Pedro also convinces Leonato and Claudio to convince Benedick, who has vowed never to get married, that he is in love with Beatrice. Chris Gerson gives a great performance here, doing everything he can to hide from the three men. They sing a song, they cut out and Benedick goes ahead. Classic. Meanwhile, Antonia and Beatrice's attendants work on convincing Beatrice that she is in love with Benedick. This all comes to a head at the masquerade ball, when Beatrice says things about Benedick to a masked Benedick not realizing who it is. Beatrice calls him the prince's jester.

Meanwhile, Don John is plotting to disrupt Claudio's marriage to Hero. Borachio has a plan where he will have Margaret meet him on the balcony while Don Pedro and Claudio watch. Borachio will call Margaret "Hero", and Margaret will respond. In this production, they dramatized this scene. Then it was intermission.

After intermission, we meet Dogberry the constable, who is incapable of speaking a coherent sentence. (Sounds like some politicians I know.) He readies the watch. At the wedding, Claudio accuses Hero of infidelity. Hero collapses, and Don Pedro and Claudio leave. Hero then wakes up. The Friar suggests that Hero pretend to be dead, so the truth can be flushed out. Everyone agrees. Borachio is walking through town and tells his friend about the whole scheme. The watch hears this, and takes Borachio into custody. Dogberry intervenes and wants everyone to know that he is an ass. Claudio is upset by Hero's death, and agrees to marry Antonio's daughter, who is the exact copy of Hero. At the wedding, the bride turns out to be Hero. Beatrice and Benedick finally proclaim their love for each other. And everyone lives happily ever after.

First of all, even though the play is set in Italy, no one tries to fake an Italian accent. It can be hard to do without sounding like a stereotype. It would have distracted from the play. Excellent performances all around. Start with Chris Gerson and Tarah Flanagan, who are married in real life, as Benedick and Beatrice. They do a great job of letting the chemistry between them simmer below the surface until the right time. Given all the remakes with these two characters, we know that the more they fight, the more they know they love each other. Michael Fitzpatrick as Leonato is great too, and gives off an aura of leadership. Stephanie Lambourn as Hero lets the confusion come out. Hero doesn't know what's going on. Brian White is great as Claudio, who is in love with Hero but doesn't know how to express it. Andrew Carlson is great as Don Pedro, who tricks Benedick into proclaiming his love for Beatrice. And one last shout out for Chris Mixon as Dogberry, who convinces everyone that he is an ass. All in all, a great performance.

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