As a cooperating organization in the series Wherefore: Shakespeare in Raleigh and just in time for Valentine’s Day, on February 13 Raleigh Little Theatre celebrated opening night of Shakespeare’s clever comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Aptly set by Artistic Director Patrick Torres in post-World War II America, the lighthearted plot unfolds with the wooing of reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick as well as young ingénues Claudio and Hero.     

Director Torres displays true mastery of Shakespeare’s wit with perfectly timed humor; and with a cast well versed in the bard’s language, no punch line goes un-punched. Lucius Robinson was hilarious and intentional as Benedick. His lanky physical comedy and clear interpretation of the dialogue set the pace for this quick comedy without leaving anyone behind – all too often a pitfall of Shakespearean productions. The supporting men were likewise unique in their humor: Scott Nagel (Don Pedro) was lighthearted and almost careless for a prince, while Stephen M. Eckert was a quirky Claudio. Doug Kapp’s and Fred Corlett’s straight-laced takes on clowns Dogberry and Verges made them all the more endearing in their buffoonery. 

Katherine Barron was elegant and confident as Beatrice – embracing the independence of women during the war. Gender roles, particularly of the women, in Much Ado lend themselves well to the post-war time period for this particular production. Beatrice is sharp and unapologetic, a very Rosie Riveter personality, and leads the female ensemble likewise. Even as she is devoted to Count Claudio, the lovely Hero (Sarah Beth Short) does not hesitate to defend herself when her honor is called into question. Even a housekeeper, played by young Riley Watson, literally “throws the book” at Benedick in their comedic Act III exchange.

The technical aspects of the show complete the seamless transition from Shakespeare’s setting to that of 1950s America. Scenic designer Elizabeth Newton has created a versatile set which clearly and effectively grounds the play in Governor Leonato’s clean and posh villa. Beautiful starry nights, projected by lighting designer Liz Grimes Droessler, painted a picture of comfort and ease within which the major plot points unfolded. Vicki Olson’s consistent costume design informed the same carefree mood appropriate to Shakespeare’s comedy.

Raleigh Little Theatre has chosen well with this romantic comedy as Raleigh continues to celebrate the works of William Shakespeare. In the hands of director Torres and his capable cast, the text is accessible, the content is relevant, and the plot is entertaining. Audiences of Shakespeare enthusiasts and novices alike will find Much Ado About Nothing a treat this season at Raleigh Little Theatre.

Much Ado About Nothing continues through Sunday, March 1. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.