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Much Ado About Nothing

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The West Coast is audible in the characters’ accents, making the Bard’s vernacular sound 21st-century. Well-tailored suits and smartphones replace hosiery and swords, and the noble men returning from war are now WASPs, ostensibly government dignitaries.

Following two couples’ parallel romantic ordeals, Whedon draws out the rom-com elements inherent in the original play, not straying from the fact that this is a love story, or at least a story about how to love.

When Hero (newcomer Jillian Morgese) attracts the affections of Claudio (Fran Kranz, The Cabin in the Woods), a jealous Don John (Sean Maher, Serenity) starts to crank the rumor mill, subsequently convincing Claudio of innocent Hero’s alleged sexual escapades. In the midst of the manipulation, Hero’s cousin Beatrice (Amy Acker, another Cabin in the Woods alum) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof, TV’s Dollhouse) are set up to fall in love, but are too busy verbally assaulting one another to recognize the scheme.

The antiquated morals expressed throughout the story seem more ludicrous in the contemporary context. Despite this, it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the drama.

Opening Friday, this new Much Ado is not an attempt to proselytize in Shakespeare’s name, but an unpretentious effort to present the comedy in a fresh light. Akin to the complexity of the original, Whedon successfully cultivates the comedy without neglecting its darker aspects — a commendable feat considering this is the same man who wrote and directed last summer's blockbuster The Avengers.

To Shakespeare’s credit, it’s hard to go wrong with such an infallible script. —Aimee Williams

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