A CHALLENGE for any Shakespeare play: How do you get people to see something that's been done again and again? What are you going to do with it? As I settled into Post5 Theatre's sweltering (but lovely) new performance space to see what their latest adaptation had in store, we were greeted with individual spritzing hand-fans to combat the heat. (Let's hope you see it before the batteries run out!)
Much Ado About Nothing is famous for its two distinct acts: morose tragedy preceded by rambunctious comedy, as young soldiers return from war to the palatial estate of elder Leonato (here, a jovial wine baron of sorts played by local improv/theater legend Scott Parker), and Leonato's daughter, Hero (the glowing Aislin Courtis), who's engaged to steadfast soldier Claudio (played with focused vigor by the multitalented Chip Sherman).
Set in a 1950s Oregon vineyard, this colorful production wows with surprises—like chicken masks, a well-choreographed swing dance sequence, and at least one appearance from a baritone ukulele and a washboard. Skillful direction by Darragh Kennan, plus stellar acting across the board, kept these Portland-y elements from being too twee; the play was able to enter a more modern headspace without stewing smugly in it.
The sweet 'n' sour chemistry of marriage-opposed Benedick (bull-headed soldier) and Beatrice (independent niece of Leonato) is what truly carries the play. Played by Post5's artistic directors, Ty and Cassandra Boice, these two fiercely autonomous characters are catapulted to life with expert physicality, sight gags, and an undeniable force of comic attraction and repulsion (imagine a set of magnets falling down a stairwell together). Stan Brown has a flair for duality, too, as both misanthrope Don John and constable Dogberry (mall cop for the ages).
Much Ado is the latest production in Post5's new space, the annex of the Casa del Padre church in Sellwood. With high ceilings and just under 100 seats, it's versatile and fitting for a company always trying new things—in this case, courtyard weddings, funerals, mistaken identity, and wine-fueled decisions, making for a captivating production you won't want to miss.