Depending on the way the five acts of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” are cut, after a first half dominated by light verbal snipings and high spirits, audiences typically return from intermission to a surprisingly dark sequel. Though Chicago dell’Arte’s production is no exception, director Nick Freed has found the comedy in even the darkest scenes—when Benedick quips “This looks not like a nuptial” during the distressing wedding scene, he spins it into a subtle reminder that despite some grim underpinnings, “Much Ado” falls squarely into the comedy genre.
With the simple set design in the compact space at RBP Rorschach and the intentional lack of props, the majority of the show’s success rides on the able shoulders of the strong cast, particularly the affable trio of Claudio (Aaron Kirby), Don Pedro (Jack Birdwell) and Benedick (Ned Record)—portrayed as a war photographer (a lover not a fighter, in other words). Though the show has a few hiccups—a photography theme distracts more than it adds and a gimmick with sock puppets falls flat—Chicago dell’Arte’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is refreshing and funny without glossing over the script’s inherent darkness. (Zach Freeman)
“Much Ado About Nothing” plays through September 25 at RBP Rorschach, 4001 North Ravenswood, (773)530-1040. $15.