.Much Ado About Something

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There is an interesting conversation going on right now in the artistic community about where the line is between making a classic relevant and ignoring the original’s artistic intent.

Marin Shakespeare Company is plunging headfirst into that argument with its production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which runs in San Rafael through July 28.

At first, the show seems to utilize a well-done but fairly standard “modernization” concept. The play is set in the Florida Keys of 2024. The soldiers appear in modern camouflage, reels are replaced with modern dances and swords become firearms. Even having gender-swapping roles is par for the course. Not standard is the addition of monologues that purposefully change important concepts within the play.

Academic arguments aside, director Domenique Lozano and their production team have put together an enjoyable show. Nina Ball’s set design is interesting, cohesive and, like all good sets, a character in itself. Costumes by Rebecca Valentino further the story while adhering to the rules of this adaptation and yet are individual enough to give important information about each character. Ben Euphrat’s sound design is fun without overpowering the actors. Though, as with many opening nights, there were numerous mic issues.

Lozano has also done a good job casting a solid ensemble. Lovers Hero (Diyar Banna) and Claudio (Tai White) are played with sensible complexity. Antonio is replaced by Leonato’s (Victor Talmadge) wife, Innogen (Keiko Shimosato Carreiro), who is actually a character in early editions of the play. Talmadge and Carreiro have great energy together. The shift from brothers to husband and wife works surprisingly well when handled by the two talented actors. Richard Pallaziol’s Dogberry is laugh-out-loud funny.

The stars of this show, though, are Johnny Moreno’s Benedick and Bridgette Loriaux’s Beatrice. While the two actors suffered the most mic issues, it never threw them. Both are well-trained, experienced and talented performers who easily handled the sudden need for projection. Their physical comedy never took away from the depth of their emotions, and their chemistry led to the audience spontaneously cheering the first time Beatrice and Benedick kissed.

There are a lot of great things happening on this stage. There is also much to be said about not performing problematic shows. But at what point is one disregarding the original artist? More disturbing, at what point is one sanitizing history?

Whatever one’s thoughts, this show is an enjoyable way to start the conversation.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ runs Thurs-Sun through July 28 at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre at Dominican University of California, 890 Belle Ave., San Rafael. Thurs-Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 5pm. $15-$40. 415.388.5208. marinshakespeare.org.

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