Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
August 1, 2014
The badasses of badinage are back! Beatrice and Benedick, Shakespeare’s power players in linguistic legerdemain have sharpened their tongues once again for repartee and reluctant romance in “Much Ado About Nothing.”
One of San Diego’s favorite Shakespeareans, Richard Baird, returns from his dramatic peregrinations to direct at Intrepid Shakespeare Company, bringing his prodigious skill to the beloved comedy, here centered by the redoubtable Sean Yael-Cox and Shana Wride, going head-to-head in an updated Sicily, 1931. Beatrice has rapier wit, and Benedick parries with aplomb. Both have vowed to remain spouseless, but they’re entrapped by their own protestations.
When Benedick returns victorious from battle, he brings a valiant young companion, Claudio, who falls instantly for Bea’s cousin Hero. Trickery, betrayal, an evil plot and a fictitious death ensue before the two estranged couples are united in something resembling matrimonial bliss.
Intrepid is dedicated to making Shakespeare’s works accessible and this production is an excellent example. The language is crystal-clear, the comedy broad but effective. A cast of 13 plays multiple roles and a few even provide occasional musical accompaniment. We get treated to the vocal prowess of Charles Evans, Jr., who plays the capricious Claudio. Danny Campbell is striking in varied guises, both nasty and nice. Matt Thompson and Ruff Yeager are stalwart as the elder statesmen, and Tom Stephenson is a flat-out hoot, milking every mangled phrase of that malaprop -spewing constable, Dogberry.
In the black box space at San Dieguito Academy, fortuitous use is made of the set from the last show, “I Hate Hamlet.” After many a murderous tragedy and history, this is a summer of whimsy and wordplay for Intrepid. And we get the last laugh.
The production values are simple but successful. The war of wits is electrifying. Inserting slivers of darkness into the brightest of comedies, Shakespeare once again captures the follies of love – “Much Ado” is smart, sassy, silly and seductive.
“Much Ado About Nothing” runs through August 17, at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas.
©2014 PAT LAUNER