MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING by William Shakespeare, directed by James MacDonald, with Jacklyn Francis, Juan Chioran, Brett Christopher, Aviva Hoffman, Xuan Fraser and Jim Warren. Presented by CanStage at the outdoor Dream Site (High Park). Previews through July 2, opens July 3 and runs to September 4, Tuesday-Sunday 8 pm. $15 (suggested minimum), under 14 free. 416-367-1652 ext 2, www.canstage. com battling lovers are the theme of much of this summer's Shakespeare park fare. Over in Ashbridges Bay Park, ShakespeareWorks stages The Taming Of The Shrew. But there's a gentler and no less compellingly amorous story in Much Ado About Nothing, CanStage's 23rd Dream in High Park. While people remember the verbal barbs between Beatrice and Benedick, the fiery pair might not connect by the play's end if it weren't for the plot involving the younger lovers, Claudio and Hero.
"That's why this comedy is such a powerful work, because it initially takes the audience on a romantic ride," says Brett Christopher, who plays the impetuous Claudio, "until a metaphoric bomb involving Claudio and Hero goes off in the middle of the play and ends their idyllic relationship."
Hero, desperately in love with Claudio, is struck to the heart when her innocence is questioned.
"The surprising charge means that she can't be certain that what she sees or hears is true," says the production's Hero, Aviva Hoffman. "She knows that her love for Claudio is true, but because she's never been hurt so deeply she lacks the words to defend herself."
Director James MacDonald - who helmed last year's As You Like It - sets his production in 1930s Italy and gives it the air of period Hollywood romantic comedies.
Contrasting the different chemistry between the pairs of lovers, Hoffman and Christopher speak of the mind games played by the elder duo (Jacklyn Francis and Juan Chioran), and the "deer-in-the-headlights" swooning of the younger.
"What they both learn is that true love isn't simply about being gaga for someone else," notes Christopher, who spent the past three summers playing Shakespeare at Barrie's Theatre by the Bay. "They discover that there's a more mature way of loving.
"But love is still a special thing, and there's no better way to experience its magic than in a setting like High Park, under the stars and in the open air."