If you are not familiar with the story of “Much Ado About Nothing,” here goes a CliffsNotes version: Don Pedro (a brilliant Geoffrey Lower) and his men, Claudio (Ramon De Ocampo) and Benedick (a hilarious Tom Irwin), return to Messina, Calif., upon defending Leonato (Dakin Matthews) and Antonio’s (Jared Sakren) land, which was under attack. Claudio confesses to being in love with Leonato’s daughter, Hero, and is set to marry her when a fabricated lie threatens their nuptials. Meanwhile, Hero’s cousin Beatrice (delightfully played by Helen Hunt) rekindles with wit and sarcasm her relationship with Benedick. Both Beatrice and Benedick really do love each other; they just have a funny way of coming to terms with it. Still, in the end, all is well, and all four lovers blissfully wed and live happily ever after.

This adaptation is set in a vineyard in California complete with wine stomping and bottles upon bottles of red wine. The ensemble worked harmoniously together and kept their energies alive with humor and dance throughout the entire show. The wonderful addition of Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett with his bluesy rhythms and country lyrics, jamming with his incredible band of talented musicians who also played various characters in the show (Brian Joseph, Fred Sanders, Sara Watkins, Sean Watkins), was the magical touch of the evening. Every time Lovett came on stage, I had to pinch myself to believe I was in such an intimate setting listening to this genius musician perform. Sara Watkin’s lovely violin and vocal skills and subtle, yet poignant presence on stage also stood out.

Shakespearean theater isn’t the easiest thing to do, but when understood and performed well, the humor and poetry of the language transcends space and time and becomes so present with the here and now. It’s amazing that after all this time Shakespeare still has it going on! For those who have a hard time appreciating Shakespeare, this version will be a wonderful introduction.



Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. For more information, visit centertheatregroup.org.