Some Shakespeare plays are more effective than others for a summer evening outdoors, but such was the wonderful sense of ensemble that the cast of First Folio Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” achieves in the Bard’s bawdy war of the sexes that when a gentle summer rain began to fall for a time in the midst of the comic chaos on opening night, neither the cast nor the audience seemed to much notice, nor care. Severe weather had, in fact, knocked out two out of three of the outdoor summer festival’s preview performances, which made the opening’s tight ensembling all the more remarkable. Director Michael F. Goldberg has transferred the action to the early nineteenth century and has assembled a cast of area Shakespeare veterans—several new to the West Suburban festival—along with young newcomers that together are able to achieve the right balance of spunk and satire. The lovers Beatrice (Melissa Carlson) and Benedick (Nick Sandys) manage to woo each other with just enough contempt and self-righteousness to make those sexual sparks fly and while Claudio (Will Allan) is a bit whiney, his Hero (Alison Lani) is such a handful, who can blame him? The ladies, gentlemen and the bumbling constables of the watch all convey their respective roles superbly, John Reeger’s Dogberry nearly stealing the show with his wry and witless rambling. (Dennis Polkow)
At Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st and Route 83, Oak Brook, (630)986-8067. $21-$26. Through Aug 17.