By Patrick B. McGuigan
A fine quartet of performers in the leading parts deliver superb romantic comedy in CityRep’s current production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” at the Freede Little Theatre in downtown Oklahoma City’s Civic Center Music Hall.
Stacey Logan commands the stage, combining authority and passion in her interpretation of Beatrice with elegant poise and grace in moments of vulnerability that overtake her in the second act. An experienced actress, this is Logan’s first-ever performance in a story written by William Shakespeare.
Beatrice’s cousin Hero is portrayed with shining beauty and intelligence by Lauren Grace Thompson, a junior at Oklahoma City University, which contributes several outstanding young performers to this show. The blend of performance professionals with students from Theatre OCU works well.
Alex Enterline, a senior at OCU, plays Hero’s on-again/off-again lover Claudio, who woos her and then rejects her when falsehoods about her virtue are spread.
Lane Fields rounds out the lead performers.
The CityRep veteran (who played Jesus in last fall’s excellent production of GodSpell) delivers a well-rounded character as Benedick. He and Logan provide several excellent verbal duels as each, determined to remain single and unattached, battle an intense attraction to the other.
Shawn Churchman as Rev. Francis is first-rate in the part of a concerned clergyman whose steady concern for truth helps the story turn out well in the dramatic final moments.
The production is well-rounded and perfectly lit, with a supporting cast of uniformly excellent thespians: D. Lance Mash (Leonato), Michael Corolla (Don Pedro), Christopher Curtis (Don John), Ben Hall (Dogberry), Aaron Wertheim (Borachio), Michael Jones (Antonio), Steve Emerson (Verges), Sarah D’Angelo (Ursula), Jasmine Richman (Margaret), JD Whigham (Balthazar), Marcellus Hankins (Sexton) and Tomer Butnaru (Conrade).
Filling out the tapestry on stage are Nathan Dun, Conner Branson, Daniel C. Brown, Brendan Kane, Dominic Rosas, Alexis Graves, Brett Holleman, Tanner Bradshaw, Lana Wittington and Cria Ama.
For anyone not familiar with this play, it may seem an overstatement to declare it is among the master works of the greatest playwright of them all, the Bard of Avon whose 450th birthday, coming in April, will be celebrated worldwide.
Shakespeare delivered a happy ending in this particular story, but only after a believable journey in which pride, prejudice and pettiness threaten to destroy happiness, hope and Hero.
Director René Moreno has crafted a fine vision, transporting the locale of the story from Renaissance Italy to Guthrie in Oklahoma territorial days. It works, in no small part thanks to Ben Hall’s scenery and Luke Gerhardt’s lighting design.
“Much Ado” wraps up its CityRep run with shows Friday Feb. 21 7:30 p.m., Sat., Feb. 22 1:30 p.m., Sat. Feb. 22 7:30 p.m. and Sunday Feb. 23 1:30 p.m.
Tickets are $8 for Students, Teachers and Military Personnel (with ID), $20 (groups of eight or more), $30 (afternoon matinees) and $35 (evening performances), and may be purchased by calling the Civic Center Music Hall Box Office at 405.297.2264 or 1.800.364.7111, or by calling the CityRep Ticket Hotline at 405.848.3761. Tickets may be purchased online at myticketoffice.com.
The City Sentinel is a proud season sponsor for CityRep this year, along with Oklahoma Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Richard P. Dulaney Foundation.