Cotuit Center for the Arts presents Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” June 19 through July 21. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 PM, and Sunday at 4 PM. There is no performance on July 4. The play is directed by Ed O’Toole, with music direction by Malcolm Granger.
The giddiness of the game of love, tempered by conspiracy, enflames this witty and enchanting romantic comedy. Like all of Shakespeare’s plays, “Much Ado About Nothing,” which he wrote in 1599, flouts convention, defies classification, and resists categorization.
This music-filled adaptation of Shakespeare’s play is set in 1945, just after the end of World War II. While men were away at war, women had assumed a new status marked by independence and self-reliance that, however brief and bittersweet, guaranteed that things would never be the way they were before the war. Those changes are reflected in the feisty, independent Beatrice, the more traditional, but emergent Hero, the spirited Margaret, and the proud Antonia.
Beatrice, played by Holly Hansen, and Benedick (Tim Hystad) hurl fusillades of clever insults at each other, bringing to mind the verbal battle of the sexes waged by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in classic 1940s films like “Adam’s Rib” and “Woman of the Year.” Benedick is determined to “die a bachelor,” and Beatrice would rather “hear a dog bark” than hear a man say he loves her.
It’s not all fun and games in Messina, though—not when there’s a villain, Don John (KJ McDermott), sowing seeds of rumor and alternative truths for no reason but to make others as discontent as he is; and not when the innocent Hero (Anna McEntee) is defamed by Claudio (Jesse Romano), the love of her life, and forsaken by her own father, Leonato (Michael Ernst), just as she is about to be married.
No need to fear, though! The day—and the comedy—will be saved by an unlikely crew of seemingly hapless officers of the law, led by the indomitable Master Constable Dogberry (Kristin Stewart), who does as much damage to the English language as she does to the villains’ plans.
Other cast members are Stephen Rourke as Don Pedro; Jessica Wilson as Antonia; Tom Crutchfield as Conrade; Alex Valentine as Borachio; Kevin Kenneally as Verges; Donn Tyler as George Seacole; Genevieve Breitbach as Ursula and Hugh Oatcake; Frank Scanzillo and Kiernon McDermott as watchmen Ralph Mouldy and Peter Bullcalf; Gretchen Pope as Margaret; Paddy Cardarelli as Friar Francis; Mary Rice as the Sexton; Garry Mitchell as Crabby Cromwell, the voice of radio station WADO; and Kristin Fehlau as lead singer Betty Balthasar, backed by Sarah Sharkey, Julia DiPreta and Treather Gassmann as the singing Shake-Tones.
“With its engaging plot of deception and self-deception, mistaken identity, its provocative treatment of gender roles, and the inclusion of upbeat songs of the era, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is sure to delight audiences this summer,” said O’Toole. “After all, how can you beat the combination of Shakespeare and ‘Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy’?”
Tickets are $40, $35 for balcony seats. There is a $2 discount for seniors and veterans, and a $5 discount for members.
Cotuit Center for the Arts is at 4404 Route 28 in Cotuit. For more information, visit www.artsonthecape.org or call 508-428-0669.