Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Berkeley Repertory's Production of Much Ado About Nothing

Also see Richard's review of Copenhagen

The Berkeley Repertory Company has staged a beautiful production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. It is a pleasant story of the bickering would-be lovers Beatrice and Benedick along with the traditional romance of Claudio and Hero. Also present are the villainous Don John, trying to obstruct the latter romance and the foolish local constable Dogberry who finally breaks up the plot. All this occurs within about two hours on the stage. It really is "much ado about nothing," a delightful piece of fluff between two sets of lovers. Unfortunately, in this version, the production concept has gotten in the way of the Bard's words. In fact, about one third of his words have been cut.

In this production, the play is updated to the end of World War I with the returning soldiers in typical WWI uniforms. The opening scene has a surreal look with a floating Victorian manor house and rows of brilliant red roses "planted" all over the stage. There are blinding white lights lighting up the whole stage, a brilliant scene. The "garden" is on a platform that rises to become a blunt wall. The manor house comes down onto the stage after the scene and stagehands wheel this large house into various positions through out the performances. There is even a forest of white leafless trees that are flown on and off the stage throughout the comedy. Also, a giant full moon dominates the stage, waxing and waning. Director Brian Kulick reduces the actors to chess pieces in these mechanical schemes. The mechanical dominates over the actual acting of the troupe; however, many of the actors rise above all of these machinations.

Francesca Faridany does some enchanting work as Beatrice while Sterling Brown makes a likeable Benedict. He does have a tendency to rush his lines at first but he finally finds the right speed for Shakespeare's words about a third of the way into the first act. He has a light-footed stage presence and his comic timing is great.

Nathan Darrow is somewhat weak as Claudio and his is an unschooled performance as the lover of Hero. Noel True's Hero is mostly one dimensional. Julian Lopez-Morillas, one of our Bay Area's better actors, gives the standout performance of the evening as Leonato. He is superb in the role and he has the true Shakespearean voice. Hector Correa also gives an excellent performance in the duel roles of Conrade and the Friar. Patrick Kerr took over the role of Dogberry and has made a madcap performance full of wonderful malapropisms. Elijah Alexander is the jeopardous demented Don Juan.

Much Ado About Nothing closed January 2nd. Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros opens on January 18 and runs through March 10. Call 510-647-2949 for tickets or visit

Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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