Abigail Bailey Maupin & Gregory Maupin in Much Ado About Nothing. Photo by Bill Brymer.
Much Ado About Nothing
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Matt Wallace
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2017 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Say what you will about The Bard of Avon, but he knew a thing or two about comedy. It would be an understatement to recognize that William Shakespeare has influenced humorists and comedians for centuries. The use of mistaken identity, word play, puns, and music are still relevant to this day. Indeed, his comedies only improve with time. Kentucky Shakespeare has opened its summer season with a refreshing take on Much Ado About Nothing that proves The Bard can still ‘make ‘em laugh’.
This Much Ado is set in the Regency era (think Jane Austen) in a lush, green courtyard where gossip, masquerades, and flirtations ensue. Gone is the wooden stage house with all of its entrances and exits. Leafy green flats and fountains adorn this gorgeous and simple set. Set Designer Paul Owen’s verdant atmosphere adds a certain lighthearted feeling of summer love to the overly romantic nonsense happening on the stage.
If you have been to the Shakespeare Festival in the last few years, you are aware of the company’s favorite resident acting couple, Gregory Maupin and Abigail Bailey Maupin. If you liked them as Kate and Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew, you’ll love them as Beatrice and Benedick. Ms. Bailey Maupin brings aspects of modern day feminism to Beatrice as she mocks marriage conventions in her wedding-repentance speech, and questions gender norms in her “if I were a man” speech. But, as this is a Shakespeare comedy, her Beatrice is quick to jump into the throes of love and the transformation from fierce independence to lovesick is perfectly played. Greg Maupin’s Benedick is a humorous fool who basks in the revels of his bachelorhood until presented a potential suitor. Mr. Maupin’s best moment arrives towards the end of act one. As Benedick skillfully eavesdrops on his friends, he incorporates some clever crowd-pleasing audience participation to the scene, yet never pulls complete focus from the text.
The entirety of the production is littered with great performances. Alisha Espinosa is delightful as Hero and well matched with Crystian Wiltshire’s Claudio. Giddy and enthralled in love, Espinosa and Wiltshire’s lovers are every bit as captivating in their love affair as well as in their apparent betrayal. J. Barrett Cooper’s Leonato is a stern, protective father to Hero, but shows off his comedic chops with great ease. John Becraft as Don John brings a cruel and bitterly scheming villain to the rambunctious folly on stage. Kyle Ware’s Dogberry is over the top in the best way, with high frequency hollers and moments of broad humor.
Kentucky Shakespeare Festival has pieced together another strong comedy for their summer season. With all the silly hijinks and tomfoolery in this play, there is clearly much comical ado about something in Central Park.
Much Ado About Nothing
June 2-4, 6-11, July 12, 15, 20, 22
Kentucky Shakespeare Festival
C Douglas Ramey Theater at Central Park
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!