The war is over in this summer’s Shakespeare-in-the-Park offering from Repercussion Theatre. Better hold off a while, though, on taking down that camouflage netting surrounding the rustic charms of Sabrina Miller’s set design, or divesting the returning soldiery of those military fatigues, as designed by Sophie El-Assad.
Because, if you’re at all familiar with Much Ado About Nothing, you’ll know that hostilities are resumed immediately as resistant couple Benedick and Beatrice engage in a take-no-prisoners firefight of snarky bons mots.
Black Theatre Workshop director Quincy Armorer plays Benedick as a likeable, occasionally dunderheaded foil to Holly Gauthier-Frankel’s Beatrice. The sometime burlesque performer has retained enough of the sass of her alter-ego, Miss Sugarpuss, to assure Beatrice’s victory, though Shakespeare does give her the best put-downs.
Director Amanda Kellock, in her third season heading Repercussion, accentuates the holiday atmosphere of this sunny romcom, with impromptu dancing to 1940s ditties and fairy lights illuminating the rosy bower as dusk falls.
In dealing with the play’s uglier side of sexual double-standards, she’s cast a woman as Leonato (Susan Glover is now Leonata). It’s an interesting choice that takes the edge off that character’s threat of honour-killing his daughter Hero (Tiernan Cornford). Glover’s rage now seem more like a breakdown born of internalizing patriarchal law. Oddly enough, I found myself missing the bracingly outrageous extremes of Shakespeare’s original design.
In another interesting casting choice, Kellock has her husband, Dean Patrick Fleming, play bad guy Don John for his return to acting after stepping down as boss of Geordie Productions. He makes a fine, slithery villain, though his laid-back delivery suggests a coiled serpent who never really strikes. But he does sink his teeth into the funny bone when he plays overgrown boy scout Verges, joining Chip Chuipka’s doltish lawman Dogberry for a delightful double-act.
Serendipitous special effects are one of the many pleasures in Repercussion’s al fresco shows. Bravo to the rain, then, for coming down right on cue for the doleful funeral scene on the evening I caught it.
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