Welcome to Telli Marin!   Sign in | Create a login

Much Ado About Nothing

Shakespeare al Fresco

Address: 890 Belle Ave.
San Rafael, CA 94901
Phone: 415-499-4485

Much Ado About Nothing

Fun and games galore in Shakespeare's comedy reinvented

The Cast of Marin Shakespeare Company’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Review by Judith M. Wilson

Photos by Jay Yamada, courtesy of Marin Shakespeare Company

The sight of a dive shop and bar on a beach in Florida is the first inkling of a creative reimagining of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The setting on Forest Meadows Amphitheatre’s stage is a marked change from Leonato’s estate in Sicily, the locale in the Bard’s original script, and it’s just one of several surprises in director Domenique Lozano’s clever adaptation of the classic comedy. The unexpected makes the Marin Shakespeare Company’s season opener fun, and Elizabethan dialog and modern touches pair nicely to create a satisfying experience.

Photo (left): Victor Talmadge as Leonato shows how quickly joy can turn to rage
at a pivotal point in the plot.

(L. to r.) Don Pedro (Edward Neville) Claudio (Tai White) make merry, while Don Joan (Stevie DeMott) plots.

Act I opens with Beatrice, played by Bridgette Loriaux, peering at the sea through binoculars, and as other characters enter the scene, we learn that a company of soldiers led by Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon, is returning from battle. From there, the story proceeds at a steady pace, with dual love stories unfolding as the characters involved overcome hurdles and work their way to the usual comedic happy ending. In the first, Claudio, one of the returned warriors, and Hero, daughter of Leonato, the estate owner who welcomes the soldiers for a lengthy stay, fall in love at first sight but face challenges from others who conspire to drive them apart. In the second, Beatrice, Leonato’s niece, and Benedick, also a returned soldier, have had a long-running battle of wits and must overcome internal obstacles to reach a resolution. The scheming of others creates a crisis in one case and leads to self-knowledge in the other.

Beatrice and Benedick (Bridgette Loriaux and Johnny Moreno) in a light-hearted moment.

Dyar Banna as Hero and Tai White as Claudio make an appealing young couple as they discover first love but fall victim to the machinations of others on their way to the altar. Loriaux as Beatrice and Johnny Moreno as Benedick are a spirited pair who light up the stage as they engage in lively repartee and negative comments about marriage in their determination to remain single. Dogberry, the head constable portrayed by Richard Pallaziol, and Verges, his deputy, provide comic relief, and in a notable switch that has a woman playing a man, Keiko Shimosato Carreiro plays a hilarious Verges, as well as Hero’s mother Innogen, making costume changes with unbelievable speed as she transitions from one character to another. Victor Talmadge is Leonato, whose emotional outburst at a key point is an attention-getter that shows how easily people can fall prey to deception.

(L. to r.) Diyar Banna as Hero, Bridgette Loriaux as Beatrice and Keiko Shimosato Carreiro as Innogen play female characters reinvented for a 21st century audience.

While in Shakespeare’s day, men played the roles of female characters, in this adaptation, Lozano goes farther than having a woman play a man and also turns two of the traditional male characters into women. Anna Baker is both Hero’s friend Ursula and the soldier Borachia (rather than Borachio), the villain who plots to undermine others in return for money and later regrets her actions and helps set things right. Stevie DeMott plays Don Joan—Don John in the original script—whose jealousy of and bitterness toward her half-brother, Don Pedro, Claudio’s friend and mentor, played by Edward Neville, puts her on a malicious path. A couple of characters in the original don’t appear at all, which might surprise purists, but this adaptation is set in 2024, and technology adds a new twist. In addition, the women in this adaptation are considerably more assertive than the Elizabethan characters, in keeping with modern sensibilities, and that requires some dialog changes, which fit into the script smoothly.

Bridgette Loriaux as Beatrice makes effective use of body language and gymnastics to create a funny scene.

Engaging actors and well-honed performances under Lozano’s direction, an inventive adaptation and Forest Meadow’s 500-seat outdoor theatre under towering trees—which puts the audience relative close to the action—make Much Ado About Nothing a memorable experience. Regardless of modern trappings, the story carries on much as it has for more than 500 years, because while setting and property might change, human nature remains much the same. And that gives the audience plenty to relate to.

Much Ado About Nothing runs from June 29 to July 28, Thursday through Sunday, at Forest Meadows Amphitheatre at Dominican University, 890 Belle Avenue, San Rafael, CA 9490,

For tickets and information, go to
   Purplepass at marinshakespeare.org
   Purplepass at (800) 316-8559
   Marin Shakespeare at (415) 499-4485

Family Day takes place on Sunday, June 7. Gates open at 4 p.m, and the performance begins at 5 p.m. Tickets for kids and young adults, up to 25 are free, and crafts and interactive theatre activities precede the show. Picnics are welcome.

Choose your own price at a pay-what-you-will performance on Thursday, June 11.