William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” has been restaged with lots of vim and vigor by Outre Theatre Company in Boca Raton, moving the action from 17th century Sicily to modern-day Venice, Calif.
But strangely, in the balance, five centuries of time travel doesn’t amount to much. The play still includes all the requisite “thou dosts” and “pray thees,” but the infusion of nowness — such as capoeira athletic acrobatics at parties; beach cops on scooter skateboards; cell phone selfies; and pop tunes — reads as laborious trying to be zany.
It isn’t all a miss. There are times, with scenes here and there, as well as bits of dialogue or physical humor, when this staging of “Much Ado About Nothing” slides into place … only to slip out of joint the next moment. It’s as uneven as the performances from the actors, some of who have a better and surer handling of Shakespeare’s musicality than others.
Now, if you don’t know your “Twelfth Night” from your “As You Like It” and are wondering, “Wait a minute, which plot is this? Is it the one with court politics, eavesdropping, honor and rumor?” the answer is yes. Then again, you’ve also just described “Twelfth Night” and “As You Like It.”
Outre Theatre’s “Much Ado About Nothing” concerns two sets of lovers: the more worldly Benedick (Tom Anello) and Beatrice (Sabrina Lynn Gore) and the sweeter, more naive Claudio (Jordon Armstrong) and Hero (Shannon Ouellette).
While Benedick and Beatrice playfully ping and pong their affections, Claudio and Hero drive much of the plot, as the villain Don John (Michael Mena) tricks everyone into believing Hero has been unfaithful.
The leads handle the language well, for the most part. But the supporting cast spits out patches of dialogue as if some sort of mnemonic device has been employed and knocked all the rhythm off.
The overall problem is that this show has many little things going for it, but nothing big enough to draw us in (and the set doesn’t help), even after 90-or-so-minutes with a 15-minute intermission. The show isn’t scruffy enough to be edgy. It isn’t quick-witted enough to be funny. It isn’t graceful enough to be effective.
“Much Ado About Nothing” will run through Nov. 17 at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, 201 Plaza Real, in Boca Raton. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday. The show runs about two hours with an intermission. Tickets cost $30 for adults, $25 for seniors, and $20 for students. Call 954-300-2149 or go to OutreTheatreCompany.com.