Love him or hate him, Shakespeare had one damn good formula for a hit.
The same premise and plot barrel through practically all his comedies: Factions clash, mistaken identities cause a tailspin, and one "hey nonny" later, it's happily ever after.
Channeling Shakespeare's consistency even as it transmogrifies his originals onstage, Post5 Theatre has its own blueprint. Much Ado About Nothing is proof that it works. Even directed by Seattle's Darragh Kennan, this production bears every mark of the theater's Bard branding.
Post5 routinely trades Shakespeareâs magical islands and quaint Italian towns for locales with a Pacific Northwest vibe. The purple house, wooden porch and flowering vines in its spring production of Twelfth Night came straight from Alberta Street, and Much Adoâs set could be any Willamette Valley winery (WillaKenzie Estate is a top sponsor). Chip Sherman playing Olivia in drag channeled Saturdays at C.C. Slaughterâs in Twelfth Night. And in Much Ado, the victorious regiment pops beer cans like so many Timbers fans on Northwest 21st Avenue. Post5âs contemporary staging is the refreshing cocktail that makes overproduced plays go down easy, when Ty Boice as buff Benedick asks a balding patron in the front row, âDost thou work out?â Shakespeareâs words are hilarious as bro-speak.
There are the inevitable bumps, though, here in the shape of flimsy minor characters and directing decisions that draw out the second act. Real-life couple Cassandra and Ty Boice dish Beatrice and Benedick's scathing banter with delightful spice, and Sherman's Claudio is faultless, but fumbled lines and Wagnerian delivery make Stan Brown's sleazy Don John more tedious than evil. Without the grit of a true villain, the show's polka-dot costumes and choreographed dance numbers wax too twee by the end of two-plus hours.
Moving the audience into Post5's garden for the wedding scene completely interrupts the play's momentum. Yes, twinkle lights below starry skies make for a picturesque chapel, but filing in and out of the cramped garden took longer than the actual scene.
Shakespeare himself shifted from outdoor theaters to indoor spaces midway through his career, cueing his transition from comedies to more serious works. Post5 doesn't mount hard-hitting theater, and that's for the best. Its mold for modernized, belly-laughing comedy makes for a lovely midsummer's eve. As Shakespeare himself wrote: To thine own self be true.
SEE IT: Much Ado About Nothing is at Post5 Theatre, 1666 SE Lambert St., 971-258-8584. 8 pm Fridays-Sundays through Aug. 16. $20.