American Players Theatre's "Much Ado About Nothing" brings farce and fireworks to the stage

Posted June 28, 2024

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Aaron R. Conklin, Madison Magazine

It’s considered a comedy, but in some ways, Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is a play at war with itself, in much the same way that its two major protagonists, Benedick and Beatrice, are at war with their own hearts over the feelings they have (and studiously hide) for each other.

There’s rapier-sharp repartee interrupted by the heavy subplot of Prince Don Pedro’s brother, Don John (Casey Hoeskstra), contriving to break up the impending marriage of the young soldier Claudio (Ronald Román-Meléndez) and the Governor’s daughter, Hero (Samantha Newcomb). Farcical moments are capped by a character seeming to die of slander. It could be enough to cause emotional whiplash, but the cast at American Players Theatre (APT), handles it with grace and skill of a busking juggler.

Mother Nature contrived to reduce Saturday’s opening night audience by at least a third, with torrential rains creating canyon-sized rivulets in the pathways leading up the hill. Those who rolled the dice on the weather report were richly rewarded — not a single drop of precipitation spoiled what became a beautiful evening.

Marcus Truschinski has always had a great knack for shifting between the comic and the serious, sometimes at the turn of a single line. That’s a skill that serves him well with this character: He gives us a Benedick who’s droll and confident one moment, introspective and sober the next. Jessica Ko, making her APT debut evokes Beatrice as a steamroller, an emotionally-armored warrior of words who’s impervious to harm. Her boisterous performance makes her eventual breakdowns — first over realizing she loves her verbal enemy, then over the harm done to Hero, feel deeper and more poignant.

Full Review Available Here