Review: ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ Utah Shakespeare Festival

"Much Ado About Nothing," Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, Utah, Summer 2016 | Publicity photo courtesy of Utah Shakespeare Festival, St. George News / Cedar City News

OPINION — I was excited to see this production because it’s one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare. This year’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Utah Shakespeare Festival did not disappoint. David Ivers’ direction was wonderful with a lot of physical hilarity as well as the enjoyable text.

The word “Nothing” in the title was originally spelled “Noting” in the Old English. It was pronounced the same as nothing but meant gossip, rumor, and overhearing.  Since this is the premise for the play, Shakespeare makes it easy to see how some gossip and rumors can produce negative effects while some of the overhearing of exaggerated facts can produce positive effects.  All of it, of course, creates too “much ado.”

The play revolves around two sets of lovers.  

The first, Beatrice and Benedict, have a long-standing “merry war.” They are both happily single and cannot see any reason to marry.  Kim Martin-Cotten and Ben Livingston are both scene stealers in the best sense of the word. When their friends decide to have them each overhear how much the other one loves them, the physical humor ignited gales of laughter in the audience. This is where Ivers’ direction truly shines. Both actors are a little older than one would normally see in those parts, but it really works in this production.  

The second set of lovers are Claudio and Hero.  They meet for the first time at the beginning of the play and it is love at first sight. While their characters are not as fun as Beatrice and Benedict, Luigi Sottile and Leslie Lank do a good job presenting the more serious part of conflicts.

J. Todd Adams as Don John, the villain in the play, is just dastardly enough to make the audience instantly dislike him. He devises a plan to make Claudio believe Hero is unfaithful to him. He is jealous of his brother, Don Pedro, and his friends, Claudio and Benedict. The plan succeeds when Claudio denounces Hero at their wedding. Friar Francis (John Oswald) believes Hero is innocent and devises his own plan to bring the couple back together, knowing that the truth will prevail.

All is resolved when the Constable and his watchmen overhear a drunk Borachio (Brandon Burk) tell his friend what he did for Don John. They arrest them for telling lies and falsehoods and take them to the Sexton to confess. Literally stealing the show at this point is John Plumpis as the Constable Dogberry. I noticed that he is playing Groucho Marx in the festival’s presentation of “Cocoanuts” and his performance made me want to go see that production as well.  

Fred Adams, Utah Shakespeare Festival founder, portrays one of the sidekicks, Verges, a headborough. It is always a treat to see Adams performing.  At 85, he still knows his way around a stage and a character.

Also noteworthy is Larry Bull as Don Pedro. In other Shakespeare festival productions, he tends to be cast in more serious roles as he is this year as the ghost in Henry V and in the last two years as Henry IV. He, too, has a great sense of comic timing and is fun to watch. Ivers has added a lot of music to the play and it really gives a nice feel to the show.  

My only complaint is the amount of noise from traffic.  It seemed worse where I sat for this show than where I sat for Henry V. A friend saw Much Ado earlier in the week and sat in the balcony. She said she could barely hear much of the play and parts of the stage were more difficult to see. Hopefully, they will be able to fix some of those problems. I, however, did enjoy the show very much and would recommend it highly for an “Evening of Shakespeare.”

The Beverley Sorenson Center for the Arts 2016 | Site map courtesy of The Beverley; St. George News
The Beverley Sorenson Center for the Arts 2016 | Site map courtesy of The Beverley; St. George News | Click on image to enlarge

Event details

  • What: Utah Shakespeare Festival’s “Much Ado About Nothing”
  • When: June 27-Sept. 8 in revolving repertory with other shows
  • Where: Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, 299 W. Center St., Cedar City
  • Ticket price: $32 to $73, with discounts for groups, students and seniors | detailed information here
  • Ticket purchase: By telephone 800-PLAYTIX or 752-9849 | online www.bard.org
  • Resources: Printable The Beverley Sorenson Center for the Arts Site Map

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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