Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 27, 2022

REVIEW: Shakespeare & Company, “Much Ado About Nothing”

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through August 14, 2022
by Shera Cohen

After Shakespeare & Company's near-quarantine and my own hibernation of the year(s) of Covid 19, my sole ached for theatre. I couldn't think of any better place to solve my problem than Shakespeare & Company. Add to this cure was one of my favorite plays, "Much Ado About Nothing". I suspect this play makes the top pick of many theatre-lovers, and perhaps #1 of "Shakespeare's Best Comedies".

This season's new outdoor, open-air theatre provides the perfect three-quarter thrust stage amid nature's trees and shrubs. The audience sits on a hillside in fixed chairs, and the view of the actors is ideal. 

The "Much Ado" plots are: one set of erstwhile lovers, another duo of young lovers, a brother scorned, and comedy within a comedy. That's a lot of story and Shakes & Co. handles it seamlessly. Although, the speed can be revved up a bit and/or remove some unnecessary songs.

Director Kelly Galvin, a woman with a significant resume, is a newcomer to this theatre. There are a lot of comings and goings that Galvin handles with aplomb, especially in the scenes of feigned subterfuge by their friends when both Tamara Hickey (our lead character Beatrice) and L. James (our other lead character Benedict) supposedly and quite obviously hide behind trees and whatnot to eavesdrop.

Beatrice and Benidict balance each other in personality, playfulness, and intelligence. Their wits carry the production throughout. Thorns in the plot are the jealous brother, portrayed soberly by Madeline Rose Maggio; and Gregory Boover's successful portrayal of the scorned boy/man Claudio to Jenna Forseca's likeness of sweet chaste Hero. The latter is a small section of "Much Ado". While the Bard was certainly a man ahead of his time, the misogynistic Claudio and Hero plot would never fly today. The audience must accept it for whatever it is worth.

It is the mechanicals Dogberry, et al who beef up the "Much Ado" comedy to a new low of vulgar humor, and the audience loves it. My guess is that the "Pyramus and Thisbe" concoction by this quintet must be as fun for the actors to portray as the audience to watch.

One would think that vocal projection in a large outdoor theatre would be difficult for those onstage and those watching the play to hear. As is done in professional opera, these exemplary actors have mastered the skills of enunciation and voice level. The lighting director's timing couples with the evening dusk as both sets of lovers’ revel, the evil Don John has left town, and the mechanicals effervescently bring "Much Ado" to a happy conclusion.

Note: What happens if it rains? "Much Ado" is moved into the main, indoor, air-conditioned theatre on campus.