Reviewed by Judy Richter
William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" has much to do about love. As seen in California Shakespeare Theater's production, there's familial love between and among Leonato (Dan Hiatt), his daughter, Hero (Emily Kitchens), and his niece, Beatrice (Domenique Lozano). There's also fraternal love among Don Pedro (Nicholas Pelczar) and the soldiers under his command. Finally, there's simple, young romantic love between Hero and soldier Claudio (Nick Childress) and more complicated, more mature love between Beatrice and soldier Benedick (Andy Murray).
The two romantic loves take center stage as Hero and Claudio fall immediately in love and plan to marry, only to have their dreams foiled by the machinations of Don Pedro's villainous half-brother, Don John (Danny Scheie). Beatrice and Benedick have known each other for a much longer time, and they have bickered the entire time. It takes some more machinations, though of the well-intended kind, to make these two intelligent, independent people realize they love each other. The villainy by Don John and his henchmen is undone through a clever plan conceived by Friar Francis (Andrew Hurteau). Constable Dogberry (Scheie again) and his ragtag assistants also have a hand in the undoing despite Dogberry's pomposity and malapropisms.
CST artistic director Jonathan Moscone helms this fine, season-ending production, which features a strong cast highlighted by those already named. The verbal battles between Lozano's Beatrice and Murray's Benedick are a special delight.
Daniel Ostling's set, which prominently features a red-leaved tree, stresses the autumnal aspects of Beatrice and Benedick's relationship. The complimentary lighting is by Russell H. Champa. The handsome Edwardian costumes are by Christal Weatherly with sound by Andre Pluess and choreography by Erika Chong Shuch.
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