‘Much Ado About Nothing’
Arkansas Repertory Theatre
Wildwood Park
July 2
With the production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” the Rep, for the first time all year at shows this reviewer has attended, lives up to its reputation for being Arkansas’s leading voice in theater. For all the talent available to the Rep over the past 10 months, it’s good to see it finally being put to some good use.
People easily forget how playful, and downright bawdy, Shakespeare’s plays can be, and “Much Ado” is no exception. Even for all its incredibly dense language and labyrinthine plots, Shakespeare was never meant to be for the elite –- the typical Elizabethan crowd was no doubt loud-mouthed, rowdy and, in some cases, drunk.
Although today’s crowd won’t be nearly as surly, it is more relaxed than high-brow. For example, it was not surprising to see one actor bartering with audience members for beer during the play’s intermission. Or Scott Barrow, playing the role of Benedick, doing a few improv wisecracks during his performance to involve the crowd a little.
This is a great family outing that mixes a picnic atmosphere with quality entertainment. And parents need not worry too much about ol’ Will’s dirty sex jokes, because unless your kid is at a college reading level, he or she won’t be able to sort through all the witty banter and endless monologues to find them.
Although there’s probably a few things different about this performance as compared with other “Much Ado” shows you might have seen, the Rep proves that it’s best not to stray too far from Shakespeare’s original voice. Attempts to modernize other Bard classics have been nothing but irritating, and it’s refreshing to see good talent continue to revive a timeless playwright.
So, put on your shorts, bring your lawn chairs, stuff your Igloos full of sandwiches and wine coolers, and enjoy a classic. The show runs at Wildwood through July 16.
— By Dustin Allen