MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Oak Park Festival Theatre. In addition to the usual pastoral impediments to outdoor theater–which last weekend included Rockets’ Red Glare and Bombs Bursting in Air–this Oak Park Festival production also has to deal with the fact that it’s the third of four productions of this play scheduled over a mere 18 months. This one is moderately successful but falls short of Griffin Theatre’s brilliant rendering earlier this year.
Director Dale Calandra attempts to freshen up the romantic odd-couple comedy by setting it in 1920s Argentina and adding some tango-based songs and dances; but the decor, however sumptuous, is not enough to save the production. Most of the actors seem not to have found their characters yet (though Joe Foust as Dogberry has a good start on one), and the decision to cast Beatrice and Benedick against physical type works only because Carole Gutierrez and Peter Toran are both professional enough to transcend cheap visual giggles.
But in a story with so many screwball complications (including the old faked-death report), the audience needs to know who these people are and what they want–and the villainous Don John’s sudden appearance just before intermission in an LED-studded suit would be puzzling in any production. The cast deliver their lines in a variety of inventive ways, but playgoers unable to recite along with them would do well to read the plot synopsis first.
–Mary Shen Barnidge