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Reviewed by:
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Regina Buccola
Much Ado About Nothing Presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago Illinois. December 10, 2005-February 26, 2006. Directed by Marti Maraden. Set by Patrick Clark. Costumes by Christina Poddubiuk. Lights by Marcus Doshi. Wigs and Makeup by Melissa Veal. Compositions by Marc Desormeaux. Sound Effects by James Savage. Choreography by Suzanne Viverito. Vocal Coaching by Christine Adaire. Casting by Bob Mason. Production Stage Management by Deborah Acker. With Kelli Fox (Beatrice), Jim Mezon (Benedick), Susan Shunk (Hero), John Hoogenakker (Claudio), Sean Fortunato (Don John), Kevin Gudahl (Leonato), Bernie Landis (Antonio), James Vincent Meredith (Don Pedro), Carey Cannon (Margaret), Scott Jaeck (Dogberry), James Harms (Verges), and others.

In his Cambridge edition of Much Ado,F. H. Mares approvingly notes a tendency since the 1970s to play Beatrice and Benedick as older than Hero and Claudio since Beatrice "confesses that she has been bruised by love, her banter is not that of a girl," and the actions that she and Benedick take in response to the turn in Claudio and Hero's relationship [End Page 89] are of greater weight if they "are delivered not by impetuous youngsters but by adults who fully grasp the implications of their" choices (54–55). Marti Maraden pursued this logic in her casting of Beatrice and Benedick for Chicago Shakespeare Theater, playing the pair as middle-aged and comically cynical. They formed a sharp contrast to John Hoogenakker's Claudio and Susan Shunk's Hero, who were played here as too youthfully inexperienced to handle the emotional turmoil to which Sean Fortunato's Don John subjected them.

Maraden's direction emphasized the parallel nature of Benedick and Beatrice's experience in a variety of ways. As soon as the house lights went down and the prelude music began, Beatrice entered, reading a book and laughing aloud. In 2.3, Benedick repeated this entrance, laughing his way through a solitary reading of the same book. During the matched set of conversations among their friends on which Benedick and Beatrice think that they are eavesdropping (2.3 and 3.1), Maraden put the emphasis on farce. Jim Mezon's Benedick cut an arresting figure: tall, broad-shouldered, portly, and stark bald. When he stood at attention behind a box shrub to "hide" from the trio of male gossips, the very idea that Don Pedro, Claudio and Leonato could not see him was, of course, absurd. After a particularly wounding dig, Mezon let out an indignant gasp which he then dropped to his knees and repeated, morphing the sound into a birdcall. Kelli Fox's Beatrice proved more athletic as she attended Hero and Ursula's skirt-swishing, parasol-twirling debate about whether or not she should be told about Benedick's love. She dove behind the shrubbery head-first and crouched absurdly under a carved stone porch railing; Susan Shunk's Hero took advantage of this opportunity to tease her cousin by perching just above her, flinging her skirt over the porch's side (and over the crouching Beatrice's face).

Patrick Clark's set design was minimalist. The audience entered to the rosy hues of an Italian tiled porch and garden walk in the signature colors of the production: warm shades of beige and peach, salmon pinks, and pastel greens. The box shrubs and trees that completed the garden scene on the stage subtly suggested autumn with their pale yellow tops, complementing a Beatrice and Benedick who had passed the springtime of their youth. The upstage playing area was dominated by three tower-like entries to the Leonato household with green, wooden-slatted doors. Punctuating these were two green archways, so that there were five ways to enter and exit the upstage space. These multiple means of entry and exit visually emphasized the play's focus on trickery and deception.

Spaces other than the porch and gardens of the Leonato household were conveyed simply by moving a few key pieces of furniture: a dressing [End Page 90] table and a chaise lounge indicated Hero's room, two kneelers and a small padded bench denoted the marriage chapel. Much Ado differs from most of Shakespeare's comedies in being set...


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