MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING by William Shakespeare, directed by David Ferry, with Camilla Scott, Paul Eves, Carly Street, Christopher Morris, Irene Poole, Geoff Pounsett, Stephen Guy-McGrath, Brendan Gall and Kathryn Romanow. Presented by Resurgence Theatre at Fairy Lake Park, Newmarket. Runs to August 7, Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $24, youth $10. 1-866-954-0163. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
It's amazing how resilient Shakespeare's plays can be, even when they're catapulted into a new era, a few lines are changed and references updated, and the cast includes some problematic actors in key roles. There's both good and bad in director David Ferry 's Much Ado About Nothing . The work features the comically sparring couple Beatrice and Benedick, who are finally brought to admit their romantic feelings for each other. They're contrasted with a more conventionally loving couple, Hero and Claudio, whose relationship is nearly brought to a tragic end by the machinations of the wicked Don John.
Adding a comic subplot involving the loquacious but word-confused constable Dogberry, the Bard juggles lots of entertaining balls.
Ferry updates the action to the Spanish Civil War, with references to the Three Stooges, Picasso and Stalin. The transition works well enough, and Ferry gives a wonderful spin to the character of John by switching gender and coming up with Donna Juanita.
In the text, John simply defines himself as a villain and lives to cause trouble. But in the hands of the splendid Irene Poole , the figure becomes a spurned lover whose hurt and resulting jealousy lead her to sabotage Hero and Claudio's happiness.
Carly Street gives Hero a touch of sweetness and a later maturity when she passes through the trials of a lover, while Christopher Morris 's initially shy, later vindictive and finally repentant Claudio captures the fickleness and believable emotions of youth.
There's other solid work in Ferry's audience-pleasing production, including Geoff Pounsett as military leader Don Pedro, Brendan Gall as Dogberry's goofy assistant, Verges and Kathryn Romanow as Margaret, an unwitting dupe in Juanita's plot.
But on the other side of the ledger are the play's leads, performed by Camilla Scott and Paul Eves . Scott has some effective moments and brings real feeling to a tender song, but there's a sameness to many of her speeches. Eves never gets beyond a flat delivery and some wooden, unfunny comedy. Their scenes together should be production highlights, but you end up admiring the wit of the writing, not the sparkle of the performances.
Drollness and vivacity combine, though, in Stephen Guy-McGrath 's purple-uniformed, clownish Dogberry. He knows how to play the text and play off the audience, and expertly becomes the most genuinely funny figure on the stage.