.Much Ado: A Shakespearean education

If one is going to do amateur Shakespeare, then Much Ado About Nothing is the safest bet. It’s mostly in prose, it’s relatively short and the storyline is fairly straightforward. Much Ado also has arguably the best pair of lovers in all of classical literature.

The College of Marin’s current production, directed by Lisa Morse and running through Sunday, March 17, does not disappoint.

Returning from an unspecified battle, Don Pedro (a well-cast Thomas Peterson) and his band of gentlemen have come to the home of their friend, Leonato (Christopher Hammond), for rest, relaxation and romance. Don Pedro’s right-hand-man, Claudio (Dominic Canty), is in love with Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Maya Giacomazzi). All is going well until Don Pedro’s villainous brother, Don John (Landers Markwick), and his henchmen, Borachio (a compelling Adonis Reyes) and Conrade (Paige Flaming), come up with a decidedly dastardly scheme.

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose

The ensuing melodrama is the blueprint for modern soap operas. However, what really matters is Beatrice (Cassie Nesbit) and Benedick (Grisha Driscoll).

Beatrice and Benedick are an early example of the classic enemies-to-lovers trope and still one of the best. Nesbit’s Beatrice is a consistently good if occasionally one note portrayal of the wittiest of Shakespeare’s women. Driscoll’s Benedick is a grounded, truthful and thoroughly enjoyable portrayal of the irascible but loveable bachelor.

With a solid Beatrice and Benedick, the rest of this production could have been an afterthought. But the professional set (Malcolm Rodgers), gorgeous costumes (Pamela Johnson) and quality original music composed by Billie Cox (performed by the impressively talented Sam Hjelmstad) prove that every part of this production was well thought out.

Of course, this is a college production, and these are students still learning their craft. Glitches do abound. At the performance I attended, there was a technical issue that left Don John and his henchmen finishing their scene in low light.

Casting is frequently an issue with college productions. Roles will be (and should be) cast with students if at all possible. This sometimes leads to very young actors playing roles like Don John that require more gravitas than a young student can usually bring. However, how else will they learn if they are not cast?

And how can they learn without an audience? These students need to experience live audiences if they are to have a shot at a successful career. With admission free to the public, there is no excuse to miss this enjoyable, educational and accessible foray into Shakespeare.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ runs through March 17 at the James Dunn Theatre at the College of Marin, 835 College Ave., Kentfield. Fri–Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. Free. Donations welcome. 415.485.9385. pa.marin.edu.

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