By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
photo by Tim Fuller
Looking ever so cool are the victorious soldiers (from left), Claudio (Hunter Hnat), Don Pedro (Aaron Shand), Don John (Christopher Johnson) and Benedick (Ryan Parker Knox.)
It is difficult to imagine a more complete Shakespeare production than "Much Ado About Nothing" at The Rogue Theatre. Directed by Joseph McGrath, the layered comedy with some serious drama in the middle and a double wedding at the end also includes two separate pieces of period social dancing choreographed by Claire Hancock.
If you ever wanted to be transported to an authentic atmosphere of Shakespeare's time, this is the place to be.
The Rogue has outdone itself creating the feeling of an Italian piazza in Messina with its tiered fountain and flowered balcony. McGrath is credited with the scenic design, which extends the stone plaza out into the first rows of seats.
Upon entering the theater you are immediately in this elegant courtyard, feeling eligible to count yourself among the people of Messina who get drawn into the play,
Equally authentic and atmospheric are the costumes designed by Cynthia Meier. A cast of 20 characters flout the fashions, ranging from Messina's governor, Leonato, down through the courtiers to the hapless townspeople under the humorous charge of Dogberry, the master constable.
Particularly striking are the plumed hats of the noble men. Rogue could finance this production by selling hats like that at intermission,
Nicely enough, the program does give nightly credit to the stage set and costume construction crews who completed this wondrous task.
Adding the final element to such a perfectly conceived production is the music of pianist Russell Ronnebaum, music director and composer, together with violinist Samantha Bounkeua, playing from their secluded corner of the balcony.
As for the acting...well...this is The Rogue after all. Holly Griffith as Beatrice and Ryan Parker Knox as Benedick are, as the program notes promise, the spark and brio of the play. It is easy to believe they couldn't have so much fun constantly insulting each other if they didn't truly love each other.
Spinning around them and this well-appointed court are the shady shenanigans of Claudio (Hunter Hnat) an insecure lord from Florence, who is also drawn to sweet Hero (Bryn Booth), a daughter of Leonato (Harold Dixon).
Plotting his full eclipse of the heart is dastardly Don John (Christopher Johnson) with his crafty cronies Borachio (Steve McKee) and Conrade (Dave Hentz).
The more that situations get confused by intrigues and counter-intrigues, the more important becomes the becalming figure of Leonato, the governor. Dixon fits the role to a T, providing the stability and humanity every caring community needs when the passions of love and jealousy collide.
Indulge your own private passions Shakespeare-style through Jan. 27 at the Rogue Theater, 300 E. University Blvd., with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Tickets are $38; student rush $15 when available, 15 minutes before curtain. For details and reservations, 551-2053, or visit theroguetheatre.org