On yet another very warm Seattle summer evening, GreenStage brought its high energy Much Ado about Nothing to the Dottie Harper Park in Burien. The troop chose to go big and broad here, and while some of the nuance of Shakespeare’s comedic chops may have been lost, the play clicked wonderfully for the picnicking audience.
Jeff Pierce took charge of the festivities with his frenetic characterization of the confirmed bachelor Benedick. Director Amelia Meckler Bowers had him and his cast mates involved in clever audience participation bits that produced some hilarious tomfoolery. Pierce’s manic energy often likened him to a Charlie Chaplin on speed, and it was appropriate for the large city park setting. The latter acts of the play call for a sober and wiser Benedick; Pierce admirably answered the bell here as well.
It was fun to see the production deeper into their run; the play has been up for three weeks now and the cast has found its rhythm and seemed to be having a ball with their characters frolicking through Leonato’s estate. Andrew Shanks as Claudio and Acacia Danielson as Hero had a number of cute moments early on as the innocent young lovers that provide a counterpoint to the worldly Benedick and Beatrice. Jennifer Crooks as Beatrice displayed just the right amount of disdain for her Benedick. When the two older lovers finally get on the same page and share a well-earned kiss, they elicited a boisterous cheer from the audience in the park.
The production gets bogged down in its take on the inept constable Dogberry (Chad Dickerson) and his even more inept troops. It would be wiser to tone down some of the broad comedy here to let Shakespeare’s clever dialogue do the job. Later scenes involving this group worked much better as the actors settled down a bit.
The cast brought the somewhat confusing love stories across quite well, having mastered a modern American sounding delivery to Shakespeare’s lines. Their energy never flags and they seemed to be having as much fun as the audience throughout the evening. They must have kicked up a half-ton of dust and dirt on their outdoor staging area.
GreenStage’s Much Ado About Nothing is running along with Two Noble Kinsmen, Macbeth and Two Gentlemen of Verona in city parks throughout the Puget Sound area. The shows are free but donations are encouraged. For more information on particular shows, sites and dates go to www.greenstage.org