STC’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ — Truly Genius!

Photo © Tony Powell. Shakespeare Theatre Company “Much Ado About Nothing.” November 11, 2022

Holiday family drama is tragic. Trade it in for laugh-out-loud drama on the stage!

Shakespeare Theatre Company’s modern version of Much Ado About Nothing is on at STC’s Harmon Hall through December 11th, just in time for you to gather up your visiting Aunts, Uncles, friends, and frenemies to take your minds off all of your own awkward conversations and dive into those of one of The Bard’s best — Hero, Claudio, Benedick, and Beatrice.

The plot: Two lovers (Hero and Claudio) want their friends/colleagues — confirmed Bachelor and Bachelorette Benedick and Beatrice — to realize they would be perfect for each other. Because when you’re in love you want that for those around you, too! (I mean, it’s cuffing season after all!) But when forces conspire against them, the cuffing turns to fisticuffs, and nobody’s relationship is safe.

Photo © Tony Powell. Shakespeare Theatre Company “Much Ado About Nothing.” November 11, 2022

Yes, like so many Shakespeare comedies about pairs of lovers, Much Ado About Nothing complicates what could be two very straightforward love connections and makes them absurdly — but so accurately — tangled with jealousy, mistrust, and self-preservation. But there’s also the actual conspiracy Don John (played by Justin Adams) thrusts upon them.

And while it’s a timeless tale, certain choices STC Artistic Director Simon Godwin made in directing this play were exceptional. To start, a news set literally sets the scene. Shakespeare News Network, SNN, is where the characters are first introduced — as co-workers and channel anchors — and it’s also where the main theme of the play is subconsciously embedded. (A well-known theme of the play is deception… how we deceive others as well as ourselves… so a news network plays upon the theme of trickery and betrayal. Don’t believe me? Just ask either opposing side at your holiday family dinner.)

Photo © Tony Powell. Shakespeare Theatre Company “Much Ado About Nothing.” November 11, 2022

And yes some of the deceits and duplicity are preposterous, but all of the foolishness is still so very now. And, of course, the cast manages to conduct all of this play’s craziness in the most perfect way. Watching Rick Holmes (Benedick) slither and crawl around the set to better eavesdrop on a conversation is about as funny as it gets, and Kate Jennings Grant (Beatrice)’s comedic timing adds in to what will certainly be one of your favorite nights out all year.

But here’s a controversial opinion to really put the party on edge — Shakespeare’s story is a strong foundation for this one, but the best moments are actually the added quips that incorporate pop culture and reference other Shakespeare works. Truly genius, Bravo!

Much Ado About Nothing plays through December 11, 2022. Tickets run $35-120

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