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Much Ado About Nothing Gets Us into Shakespeare

By Betsy Mikel in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 14, 2010 8:40PM

Chicago dell'Arte's adaptation of the play runs until Sept. 25.
It’s unfortunate that Shakespeare reminds us of all the high school teachers we hated for making us read him. But now that we’re adults, we figure it’s time to come back to Shakespeare with a fresh slate so we can understand what all the centuries of fuss have been about. We’re lucky Chicago dell’Arte is around to help us out. We saw the theater company perform their rendition of Much Ado About Nothing this weekend, and we’re glad to report that thanks to their interpretation of the play, we understand this Shakespeare stuff a little bit better now.

Much Ado About Nothing is another one of Shakespeare’s haphazard love stories. Claudio immediately falls for Hero the second he meets her, and gets wingman Don Pedro to help him woo her. Once the Claudio-Hero wedding is on, they convince the rest of the cast to trick Beatrice and Benedick, two saucy and sarcastic supposed enemies, into loving each other. Then there’s the jealous sister who tries to break up the lovebirds, the characters that get sucked into playing out her plan, and the bumbling comic relief character that knows and sees it all. Essentially there’s a lot of deceit mixed with love and, in true Chicago dell’Arte fashion, laughs to accompany it all.

Instead of following Shakespeare’s lead by dressing up the characters as lords, waiting-gentlewomen and constables, director Nick Freed set the scene with contemporary characters. The soldiers are dressed in army fatigues and the female characters show as much skin as their personalities allow; the conniving and black-hearted Donna John clearly never experiments with her look, whereas the provocative Meg isn’t afraid to flaunt her assets. Since the costumes are essentially the only props, they’re important. We particularly enjoyed Borachio’s outfit: his bedazzled dog tags were a nice touch.

“You’ll recognize the familiar Shakespeare characters, but also characters you see on the street,” says Freed. That goes beyond what they’re wearing. The actors put a lot into showing real human emotion betwixt the thous, haths and pray yous in their lines. When the scene is jovial, the audience in the small theater laughed together. When it was time for a soul-searching monologue, things felt a bit heavier. And during the party scene, where the characters toasted their Solo cups and teetered around gossiping, our date leaned over and whispered “this is exactly what every party is like.”

Much Ado About Nothing is playing every Thursday-Saturday until Sept. 25 at RBP Rorschach, 4001 N. Ravenswood. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit their website.