“Much Ado…” by the Mauckingbird

Much Ado About Nothing (Wm. Shakespeare adapted & directed by Peter Reynolds,) Mauckingbird Theatre Company, Off Broad St., at 1636 Sansom St., August 10-26, Reviewed for WRTI, 90. 1 FM.

We’re so used to the antics of Beatrice and Benedick, Shakespeare’s reluctant lovers in Much Ado About Nothing, we forget Claudio & Hero. But Peter Reynolds, the founder-director of the Mauckingbird Theatre, hasn’t forgot. Reynolds has made his adapation of Shakespeare’s famous tale Claudio & Hero’s story and with the dynamite Cheryl Williams as Leonato,  the Governor of Messina, this gay take on Shakespeare rings true. Williams, who like Reynolds, teaches in the theater department at Temple, has amazing range, she’s convincing as the pleased mom, thrilled that the noble Claudio has picked her sweet boy for marriage, enraged when her son gets caught in Don John’s dreadful plot. A dozen emotions course through her valiant soul and Leonato’s pleas and rants fill the stage. It’s every gay boy’s nightmare, disappointing mom, Reynolds says, and Hero played by Cameron Slusser, does a fine job as the innocent foil to miserable schemes. Griffin Back plays the noble who wins, then drops Hero’s hand. Never fear, Beatrice (Sean Thompson) and Benedick (Matt Tallman) are still sparring, too. Though their sudden change of heart is not entirely convincing – perhaps but I don’t think entirely because the adapation has had about 40 minutes cut.  Saturday’s performance (intermissionless) began a little rocky but turned secure as the complications grew. Will Poost is a very funny Dogsberry.  Chancellor Dean’s Don Pedro looks the role;  Erika Anselmo as Leonato’s sister, compels.  The Mauckingbird Theatre has a new home: 1636 Sansom, downstairs at First Baptist.  Much Ado About Nothing – through August 26.