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Much Ado About Nothing

  • 3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

If lines outside the Delacorte for As You Like It are too long to bear, consider heading due east to Roosevelt Island. Fledgling company Island Shakespeare may not have anything like the pedigree of Shakespeare in the Park, but its alfresco Much Ado About Nothing doesn’t lack for brio—or for bread.

The troupe’s debut production is directed by Thomas R. Kee, who uses his experience as a former Sleep No More cast member to bring his own on-your-feet twist to the Bard. Much Ado is a much more traditional, smaller-scale affair (no plague-doctor masks involved); but Island does call on theatergoers to follow actors as they meander around the Eastwood Amphitheater.

The performance isn’t really interactive, simply active. Run to the top of the stairs to watch the evil Don Jon (John Hardin) hatch a plot, then dash back down in time to catch the next battle in the "merry war" of Benedick (David Hywel Baynes) and Beatrice (Kristi Artinian). This device works well for a play that’s all about eavesdropping and overexertion. Artinian’s Beatrice is a bit too buttoned-up for Baynes’s rakish Benedick, but they make hay all the same. Though the cast and pacing are uneven, the ensemble’s sense of fun makes up for it. (Ashley Strand, particularly, has a whale of a time as the drunken Dogberry.)

With someone always strumming a lute or dashing around on the grass, Kee’s Messina is abuzz with activity; a guy with a basket of wine flasks and homemade garlic buns meanders through the audience to make sure you get in on the spirit too. For, as Benedick notes, man is a giddy thing.—Jenna Scherer


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