November 14, 2002


Much Ado About Nothing

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning













To find out more about Off-Tryon, please visit

For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

Much Ado About Nothing, as performed by the Off-Tryon Theatre Company, is a sixteenth century sit-com. A few fiery performances carry the show, while a few others manage to make Shakespeare’s language fall flat. Off-Tryon is in their third season, and currently receives no city, county or Arts and Science Council funding. They continue to do a lot with a little.

This is cut and dry Shakespeare comedy. Quick-witted Beatrice has sworn never to marry, yet thoroughly enjoys bantering cleverly with the equally love-wary Benedick. The couple is played by Laura Depta and Stan Peal, who are married in real-life. They are almost equally marvelous, though I give the edge to Peal.

Because Beatrice and Benedick are both hard-headed and funny, it only makes sense that their friends contrive a plot to throw the two together. And as in any good Shakespearean comedy, once the protagonists are told they love each other, they do. Meanwhile, Beatrice’s cousin Hero is engaged to be married to the humble Claudio, a union arranged by Don Pedro, and almost sabotaged by his evil brother Don John.

Peal is terrific. While trading verbal lances with Beatrice, he is alternately bombastic and endearing. His disdain for love is full of good humor. And he is surprisingly nimble as he hops over and crawls under the wooden fence. He manages not to over-act while drunk, by speaking his lines clearly, and successfully bouncing off the set for emphasis.

Likewise, Depta’s performance is sharp as broken glass. She conveys intelligence and humor, along with a subtle vulnerability that makes her a sympathetic character. Marshall Case performed admirably as the stately Leonato, as did Randal Chou as Don Pedro. The scene where Benedick’s buddies "let" him overhear their imaginative expression of Beatrice’s love for him is hilarious.

Most of the actors spoke their lines clearly, and slowly, which allowed the material to shine. Two characters didn’t. Ursula, played by Meg Wood, upstaged Hero with unnecessary antics and unbelievable slapstick. Likewise Dogberry, a fool played by Paul Goodson, adopted an overbearing effeminate persona that obliterated his lines. A straightforward approach would have been more effective.

Three women were cast in male roles, and no attempt was made to try and make them look male. Mykel Chambers’ costumes, a hybrid of Thai pantaloons and Asian silk jackets were delightful to look at, but were blousy and loose and didn’t help with gender distinction.

Lynn Trenning, November 14, 2002

[ArtSavant link]
© 2000 - 2001 ArtSavant - enquiries to