Much ado about a new venue
Much Ado About Nothing
There’s a nifty new place to see a play on a grassy hillside up in the foothills. The Kennedy Mine Outdoor Amphitheatre in Jackson is still something of a work in progress. It broke ground barely three months back, opened just two weeks ago and will see further improvements during the next two summers.
But even at this early juncture, it’s a charming and quite comfortable venue. Newly sodded terraces form a semi-circle around the stage, surrounded by mature oaks. The bowl offers recently installed theatrical lighting, good natural acoustic properties and seating for about 350 people—just right for “high-end” community theater. There’s ample parking down the hill, and the evening temperatures are pleasant, with singing crickets after sundown.
The amphitheater is the new summer home of Main Street Theatre Works. This Amador County company has recruited many Sacramento actors in the past decade. Its productions have earned 52 Elly Award nominations (and won 11 times). For several years, the company’s shows have been at the old Sutter Creek Theatre. Alas, the group lost its lease on that venue last year. Although the company is planning to stage dinner-theater productions in Sutter Creek, this amphitheater looks like a summer tradition.
The venue’s inaugural production, Much Ado About Nothing, bears more than a passing kinship to the company’s user-friendly production of The Taming of the Shrew several years ago. The company has recycled portions of the set and has brought back many of the actors. Julie Anchor and Allen Pontes (who played Kate and Petruchio in Shrew) are now Shakespeare’s other famous pair of battling lovers, Beatrice and Benedick. They display good chemistry and fast comebacks as the witty, wordy, reluctant couple. Scott Devine again revels in a broad comic role—this time as Dogberry, the language-mangling constable. Pretty Devin Kelly, a Natomas Charter School senior, does well as Hero. Tall, skinny Deejay Arnold and glowering Ron Adams also succeed as her lover, Claudio, and her father, Leonato, respectively. Chris Lawson is the heart of scheming darkness as Don John.
Director Susan McCandless tells the story in a clear, linear sequence, positioning her players in clever ways that reinforce the inherent humor in the script. Those who know the play will enjoy this straightforward, crowd-pleasing rendition. Those seeing the play for the first time will find it easy to get into.