reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s sparkling production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is a true tonic for the eye. Rendered on a striking set by Ryan Koharchik, with amazing costumes by Adrienne Conces, this popular comedy is reset into the post-WW2 era. Director Emily Rogge Tzucker’s vision (and cuts) for this 90 minute version all work well for Civic Theatre’s first main stage production of the Bard in it’s long existence.

Scenic design by Ryan Koharchik and costumes designed by Adrienne Conces are featured in Civic Theatre’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing”

Returning from the fighting, Don Pedro (Joshua Ramsey) and his men visit the household of the hospitable Governor, Leonato (Tom Beeler), whose daughter Hero (Carly Masterson) and niece Beatrice (Sara Castillo Dandurand) get very favorably noticed by some of the men. Claudio (Nicholas Gibbs) is especially taken by Hero and pledges to his friends that he will marry her. Countering that idea, Benedick (John Kern) states he will never be a husband. As a side-issue, there exists a “merry war” of words between Beatrice and Benedick, who both disdain marriage. Shakespeare’s skills for the twisting of plots and relationships form up the rest of the story as there follows an array of romance, concocted plans, villainy, misdirected results and, of course, clowning.

Benedick (John Kern) and Beatrice (Sara Castillo Dandurand) face off in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing”

The play is well-directed, most of the action being readily understood (hey, this IS Shakespeare), with apt portrayals by Ms. Tzucker’s crew of players. Ms. Masterson and Ms. Dandurand are demure and feisty, respectively, as the two main femmes. Gibbs fills the bill as an alternately romantic, betrayed and contrite young Claudio. John Kern impresses with a well-developed Benedick – his monologues, and his scenes with Ms. Dandurand, being highlights of the play.

from left, Leonato (Tom Beeler), his daughter Hero (Carly Masterson) and her ‘intended’ Claudio (Nicholas Gibbs) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing”

The low-brow comedy provided by the Shakespeare’s clowns, constable Dogberry (Kelsey VanVoorst) and her cohorts (Joe Steiner, Bill Buchanan and Jonathan Doram), is more than a bit scenery-chewing at times. Other supporting roles – Beeeler’s Leonato, Ramsey’s Don Pedro, along with Hero’s friends Margaret (Sabrina Duprey) and Ursula (Leah Hodson), plus villians Don John (Darby Kear), Borachio (Max McCreary) and Conrade (Elizabeth Speckman) – are all well-played.

Bottomline: this is a nicely compact Shakespearean experience – a pleasure to look at, entertaining to take in. Civic Theatre should perhaps do more of the Bard’s offerings – with their amazing capabilities for stagecraft and production, there are many from his folios which they could provide for their followers in an impressive manner.

Much Ado About Nothing continues at the Booth Tarkington Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through February 22nd. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing