BWW Review: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Dazzles Under the Stars in Outdoor Performance in Round Rock, TX.
Inviting guests to enjoy MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING in the open air amphitheatre in downtown Round Rock, Penfold Theatre presents a delightful adaptation of this Shakespearean classic. Traditionally classified as a comedy, the comedic elements were matched note for note with somber country western style songs - making this interpretation a dramedy for your viewing pleasure. At the heart of our story are two couples, thriving in desperation and desire they continue to intertwine. Claudio (played by Nathan Daniel Ford) declares his affection for fair Hero (played by Emily Christine Smith), these two are quickly swooned with each other and a wedding date is set. A trick is hatched to play on funny man Benedick (played by Nathan Jerkins) and fiery Beatrice (played by Jennifer Coy Jennings,) to mislead them into love. Through the deceptive revelation of other characters and a bad case of eavesdropping, Beatrice and Benedick begin to see each other in a new light. Resorting back to childish tactics apparently has worked on people for centuries as their attraction for each other begins to bloom. However a more tricky foil comes to fruition when Don John (played by Suzanne Balling) falsely reveals Hero's infidelity the night before her wedding to young Claudio. Outraged by the thought of an unfaithful partner, Claudio rages away from the wedding altar cursing Hero's name for her promiscuity. The stage is set, the plot is hot and the characters are clamoring to protect one another and come out on top.
Adapting the bard's script from twenty characters or more down to plot-driving characters and six actors was no easy feat. Ryan Crowder cut the fat from the script and has presented a really clear and fun adaptation of this classic tale. With playing to their characters archetypes and actors playing to their strengths, the divide between comedic performance and dramatic performance is very apparent. However, the passing of the torch between the plot driving scenes either comedic of dramatic, move the story along and provide a little something a wide variety of theatre-goers will appreciate. Penfold's version of this play worked very well with this modern trim. Out of the six actors, two performers developed wildly different frontier styled personalities for multiple roles - switching roles the way Katy Perry changes clothes, Suzanne Balling and Taylor Flanagan were a true highlight within the performance. Malleable and unrecognizable from one characterization to the next, the creative editing and staging presented by Ryan Crowder was delightful and very funny. Building a great foundation and a lot less costume changes, the four main characters intertwine their love kindling and love lost throughout the piece. The comedic gags, vocal work and heartfelt soliloquies are welcomed with open arms to peek at their inner desires. Captain Benedick as the sarcastic funny man was played brilliantly by Nathan Jerkins. Jerkins used code-switching within the Shakespearean text to modern style speech to bring in the biggest laughs from the crowd. His navigation of the words provided by the bard beautifully propelled his story arch and set the tone for the other performers.
Sitting under the stars on blankets and lawn chairs, watching Penfold Theatre's production as the sun goes down and trains pass was a delightful experience. Family members of all ages will enjoy this show for it's dancing, love, loss and character work. Not to mention the best price tag around for summer Shakespeare, do yourself a favor, grab some friends and head to Round Rock for this classic. After all, what's summer without a little Shakespeare?
For more details on when to see this show, check out this link:
Photo Credit: Kimberley Mead