Battle of the sexes
Much Ado About Nothing
It’s been years—eight, to be precise—since there’s been a professional, Equity-level production of a William Shakespeare comedy in Sacramento proper. That long drought is not exactly something to be proud of in a city of this size.
That said, we should sound a note of reprieve: The Delta King Theatre’s smart, savvy, very funny show is the third production of Much Ado reviewed in these pages during the past 12 months. (The others were at Lake Tahoe and in Jackson.) Shakespeare does get done around these parts; we’re just conditioned to heading for a pretty amphitheater in the hills (or to the Mondavi Center) for the experience.
The Delta King’s Much Ado makes a convincing case that Shakespeare can be done successfully—artistically and financially—right here in River City.
This Much Ado brings together three local Equity actors: Jamie Jones and Michael Stevenson (with numerous B Street Theatre credits), plus Eric Wheeler (from the Delta King’s recurrent I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change). Also, Gillen Morrison and Mick Mize (veterans of many professional shows, though not union actors).
Director Christine Nicholson also has recruited talent from River Stage and City Theatre: Katherine Pappa, Richard Falcon, Kristine David and Sarah Rowland. All told, there are 11 actors and 17 roles.
Nicholson not only handles all this traffic on the “cozy” stage, but also gives the play a clear, efficient, skillfully paced, straight-ahead reading. We get high comedy in the witty battle of the sexes between two proud-to-be-single adversaries, Benedick and Beatrice. We get low comedy from the dimwit constable, Dogberry. And we get the all-important moment of darkness, in the form of a wedding ceremony that comes unglued at the altar, as this comedy very nearly becomes a tragedy (Falcon is strong here). And we get a believable happy ending.
Wheeler does double duty. He is strong as Benedick, showing both comic and dramatic presence (don’t forget that he was outstanding in the River Stage drama Gunfighter). But Wheeler doesn’t quite get all of Dogberry; some of the constable’s word-mangling lines can be even funnier than they are in this show.
Jones likewise has two roles: She’s very capable as tart-tongued Beatrice, but she lays it on a bit thick as Dogberry’s sidekick, Verges.
Much Ado is also a good-looking show: Jonathan Williams’ scenic design recalls old Mexico, and Nancy Pipkin’s many costumes are lovely.