"Much Ado About Nothing" is objectively one of the greatest plays in the universe. It’s one of Shakespeare’s funniest and most joyous comedies. Right now, there's a short, stripped-down version playing at Gorilla Tango. Let us expand on what we mean by "stripped-down."
Gorilla Tango has found a way to distinguish itself from other sketch and improv venues by gradually and quietly transforming into a House of Boobs. Their in-house Shakespeare production naturally bears their stamp by having its cast decked out in swimsuits. As adapted and directed by Katie Horwitz, this turns out to be a fine idea. What’s really important about this play is its sense of fun. As is often the case, we’ve got two couples. The first lover is Claudio (Nate Bursma) the young war veteran smitten with Hero (Monica Learch).
This couple provides the main plot complication, which is basically Othello light. Claudio is deceived by his lord’s evil brother Don John (Amanda Lynn Meyer) into believing that Hero has been unfaithful to him. Like too many Shakespearean plot contrivances, this makes no sense. “Okay, Guy We Just Defeated in a Civil War, you’re obviously a credible source.”
What saves the play is the other couple, the one that everyone likes: witty Beatrice (Katie Utterback) and Benedick (Gabe Beutel-Gunn) conducting their merry war. Beutel-Gunn plays Benedick with an amusing smarm that manages not to overwhelm a basic likability. Utterback is unquestionably the heart of this production. Her Beatrice is absorbing, beguiling and lovable.
There are a few small missteps. The level of double casting sacrifices clarity for efficiency. The biggest flaw here is that the one hour running time is far too short. The proceedings feel rushed. Some of the play’s best stuff, most notably the escapades of the comical constable, Dogberry (Learch) get left on the cutting room floor. Gorilla Tango would be well advised to let Horwitz remount this baby with a longer running time. This production has enough humor and heart to deserve another thirty minutes. It’s a beach party you’ll want to be part of.