Did you ever encounter an actor who simply rubs you the wrong way? Someone whose performance you are guaranteed to dislike, no matter what the role? I love the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, which does outstanding productions on very small budgets, but the current performance of "Much Ado About Nothing" gives a starring role to a performer I just can't stand (and who is woefully miscast). As soon as I saw the playbill, I groaned.
Unfortunately, the evening didn't get any better from there. This production is riddled with flaws. Set in 1968, the production opens with a peace rally. Throughout the play, the characters smoke pot, make Molotov cocktails and dance around the stage while intoxicated. The jangly bracelets, fringed vests and voluminous bell bottoms distract from the text -- the cardinal sin of any Shakespeare production. Several of the jokes are over-played, and the scenery, featuring neon flaps that open and close, makes absolutely no sense. I spent way too much brain space trying to figure out why certain flaps were opened at certain times.
You know my rule: You can do anything you want with a Shakespeare text -- any setting, any costumes, any casting -- as long as it enriches rather than detracts from the text. Usually, CSC does that very well. Not this time.