Volume II, Issue II Summer 2003

Sense of fun pervades Globe's 'Much Ado'

Review by Jim Trageser

Much Ado About Nothing
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Brendon Fox

Lowell Davies Festival Theatre
The Old Globe
Balboa Park, San Diego, Calif.
Through October 12


In the weeks leading up to the unveiling of The Old Globe's latest production of "Much Ado About Nothing," there were the usual preview articles in the local press – gushing over TV stars Dana Delany and Billy Campbell starring as Beatrice and Benedick, and then offering up the seemingly obligatory question of how would the Globe try to make Shakespeare relevant to an contemporary audience.

But if ever William Shakespeare wrote a play that needs no rationalization, no justification, no explanation, it's the farcical "Much Ado About Nothing."

A comedic love story, "Much Ado" is one of the few Shakespearean plays with a happy ending. The storyline is clear – creepy Don John lies about young Hero to her suitor, Claudio, leaving Benedick and Beatrice to help makes things right.

And then fall in love themselves, of course.

Longtime Globe regular Brendan Fox is directing his first Shakespeare with "Much Ado," and he shows a nice touch – timing, humor, and a certain spunk that all combine to make this a light, fun evening.

Dana Delany and Billy Campbell in Much Ado About Nothing The set design by Anna Louizos is charming and classical – Fox has set the play in Italy just after World War I, and Louizos' estate and garden do a nice job of capturing that time. Linda Cho's costumes are also period, and with Fox having transformed Claudio and Benedick into open-cockpit flyboys, she has fun with the jodhpurs-and-cravat look.

Adding to the sense of lightness is Fox's decision to use several off-stage entrances, and the use of sound to simulate planes flying overhead. That particular effect is a bit undercut when the sounds of imaginary piston-driven planes of nine decades ago are drowned out by 727s landing at Lindbergh Field – one of the challenges of the Globe's summer outdoor stage. (That is, of course, balanced by the charm of hearing the animals at the adjacent San Diego Zoo settling down for the night.)

And Delany and Campbell? If a bit long in the tooth to be playing young lovers, Fox is smart enough to give them enough leeway to make their characters committed bachelor/bachelorette instead. The verbal sparring is a joy, and allowing the two actors to play their own ages makes the final coupling that much more rewarding when Beatrice and Benedick finally let their guards down to allow the other to come in.

Jim Trageser is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif.

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