Much Ado About Nothing gets an outdoor queer eye staging

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING by William Shakespeare (Dauntless City Theatre). At Berczy Park (Front and Church). Runs to August 26..

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING by William Shakespeare (Dauntless City Theatre). At Berczy Park (Front and Church). Runs to August 26. Pwyc. See listing. Rating: NNNN

Down at Berczy Park, director Eric Benson offers a perambulatory queer reimagining of Shakespeares romantic comedy that delights despite some drawbacks.

Dauntless City Theatre returns to the park for its fifth summer, and against the colourful elegance of Old Toronto architecture we meet Don Pedro and her military entourage (including Claudio, her bestie, and Don John, her illegitimate sister). As they arrive in Messina, they are greeted by the nobleman Leonato and his family, including his son Hero, and Heros cousin Beatrice. Antics ensue, resulting in the betrothals of Beatrice and Benedick, and Claudio and Hero.

Dauntless prides itself on subversion, and this is no exception as most of the casting runs against historical gender norms. Notably, Benson reimagines Hero as a man (Chase Winnicky), reframing his romance with Claudio as a gay relationship. Meanwhile Benedick is cast a woman (Kate Werneburg) opposite Chanakya Mukherjee as Beatrice.

The result is refreshing. Werneburg epitomizes a gruff jocularity that underlines her discomfort with intimacy (while evoking consistent chuckles from the audience), and Mukherjee moves us with a tender masculinity that remains all too rare. Similarly, Ira Henderson plays Claudio as a military man whose defenses melt when his love is requited. Yet Don Johns illegitimacy and Claudios insistence on Heros chastity seem absurd in this queered world, and while Melanie Leon does an admirable job of humanizing Don John, casting her along a male Hero weakens the significant misogyny motivating her scheme.

Amidst the bustle of downtown, the atmosphere is respectful and welcoming, and were warmly encouraged to stand as close as we like, although the cast project well throughout. Their enthusiasm is intoxicating, charming both the audience and passers-by who join for a few moments to others who linger as the light fades and the chaos resolves.

Whether you set out to see Shakespeare or not, its difficult not to find yourself enchanted by this provocative twist on this canonical romance.

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