Much Ado About Nothing, Wing & Groove Theatre. Sturdy but uninspired, Tom Small’s staging of this rather ugly comedy allows its serious side to overwhelm the potential humor. You don’t want to take the play’s subplot about unfounded jealousy, truly a poor man’s Othello, too seriously. A post-World War II setting (which Griffin Theatre employed to advantage almost five years ago) adds little to the action, except as an excuse for a closing jitterbug that’s much more spirited than anything before it.
Beatrice and Benedick’s witty anticourtship generates astonishingly few laughs thanks to Chris Genebach’s pedestrian Benedick (though Megan Powell brings pert precision to Beatrice). Ponderous and loutish, Todd Guill’s relentlessly unfunny Dogberry bellows and spouts as if the idiot constable’s only problem were being louder than life. It’s piss-poor Shakespeare when the sight gags grab more yucks than the verbal humor.
But then this Much Ado (too true to its title) is typical of off-Pier Shakespeare, which often sacrifices the music of the language, supposedly to make the dialogue more accessible. The result is an overly deliberate pace and recitations in which certain words get pounced on as if the verse’s meaning could be wrestled to the ground by emphatic enunciation. Shakespeare’s comic machinery ultimately triumphs, but it shouldn’t have to work this hard.