Much Ado About Nothing | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Much Ado About Nothing 

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Much Ado About Nothing, Yugen Theatre, at the Footsteps Theatre. Here Shakespeare tells the story of two deceptions: the good kind, mounted by friends of the stubbornly unromantic Benedick and Beatrice to show the reluctant lovers their true minds, and the bad kind, perpetrated by malcontent Don John to avenge himself on his estranged half brother. All is resolved, however--with the help of additional therapeutic lying--and Shakespeare makes clear that the difference lies not in the act but in the motive.

Yugen Theatre's production likewise starts on rather rocky ground. Setting the play in Italy circa 1964 (with Beatles tunes sung a cappella as incidental music) means that it takes longer than usual to orient the audience, and the alley staging in Footsteps Theatre's studio often requires the actors, who are already gobbling rather than savoring their words, to turn their backs on half the spectators. But once the plot kicks in, individual characters and objectives quickly take shape. Director Gordon Reinhart has accomplished a near miracle by integrating a cast with widely varying experiences and skills into a cohesive whole. David Hadinger's Benedick is a suitably gruff curmudgeon in training, but Michele DiMaso's Beatrice comes off as a sassy, hyperactive adolescent in a permanent fit of pique. After Yugen's many earnest but unviable efforts, this uneven but engaging production may be what it needs to become a contender in the ranks of Chicago's off-Loop theater.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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