Beatrice and Benedick go to camp
It’s touted as a play for those who may be “new to or unsure of Shakespeare,” but this year’s Water Works Theatre matinee family show, an hour-and-a-half abridged version of “Much Ado About Nothing,” may leave Shakespeare neophytes a tad bewildered.
The setting is an inspired choice. Director Barton Bund uproots the romantic comedy from Messina, in Sicily, and replants it at Camp Messina for Girls, an ideal spot for an outdoor production in a park, although you may wonder why a royal entourage is visiting a summer camp, even if they do arrive in an actual Prius.
Although it’s ostensibly about a pair of double-crossed lovers, Claudio and Hero, another couple, the witty and more-fleshed out Beatrice and Benedick, have been running away with the play for hundreds of years. In Bund’s re-imagining, another couple (who weren’t even a couple originally) nearly steal the football.
That would be Don Pedro (Andrew Papa), the prince at the head of the entourage, and Leonata (Linda Rabin Hammell), owner of the camp. In the original text, Leonato was a man, the governor of Messina. While there is no hint of romance between the characters, Papa and Hammell are superior actors and one can’t help but be drawn to them. Papa especially speaks his lines with outstanding clarity.
Other actors perform with varying degrees of success. Jamie Weeder (Beatrice) and Dan Johnson (Benedick) have their moments, but there is little chemistry between them. The same holds true for Evan Speck (Claudio) and Halle Bins (Hero).
This can happen when you edit ruthlessly. Every one of Shakespeare’s plays could probably do with some pruning, but it may come with an attendant sacrifice in character development and story coherence.
There is much to enjoy in this “Much Ado,” but I recommend that anyone new to or unsure of Shakespeare become familiar with the play beforehand.