Still more audacious is director Drew Fracher’s attempt to marry this well-mannered comedy — one whose dialogue is dominated by matters of birth, rank and parental authority, and whose plot hinges on a bride’s alleged promiscuity before her wedding day — with the acid-tinged, free-love vibe of a hippie commune.
The wrongheaded concept, flawed further by anachronistic gaffes in the soundtrack and the actors’ wardrobes (pick a year like 1968 and you’d better get it right), distracts us from what would otherwise be a smart, enjoyable play about two different couples finding happiness via circuitous routes.
The youngsters, Claudio and Hero (Ian Bond and Sara Clark), are threatened by a conspiracy that calls the girl’s virginity into question. Needless to say, everything works out in the end — no thanks to the local authorities, especially Andy Gaukel’s hilariously inept Dogberry.
Much Ado isn’t one of Shakespeare’s greatest hits, but it works, as proven by a winsome 1993 film adaptation by Kenneth Branagh and by other live productions. The script, vaguely set in an Italianate province after the peaceful resolution of a civil uprising, suits any number of periods and places — except, perhaps, the one courted here. Matthew Lewis Johnson’s groovy set and an inspired party scene, with echoes of Laugh-In, certainly have us rooting for this relationship. But sometimes love isn’t all you need.
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