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LA Theater Review

Much Ado About Nothing

Directed by Chris Jean, this Nothing has much ado about the roaring '20s and the jazz era, highlighted by musical snippets provided by Chris Sauer on the sax and by the costumes (designed by Angela Eads) worn by female characters. Otherwise, it could be -- iambic pentameter aside -- set in the present day.

Topping the production's assets is Jen Bronstein's performance as Beatrice, a formidable challenger in the battle of the sexes, Shakespearean-style. The actor has a command of the language and body movement of the genre. She also brings in a bit of that 1920s flair the production is looking for. As her worthy opponent in romantic warfare, Jeff Holden as Benedick is no slouch in the style, although at times his exuberance is overwhelming. As Benedick's best bud Claudio, Race Owen holds his own and adds more than a dash of class. And Jason Vaughn as a rather young Don Pedro brings a sense of regal dignity to the proceedings. Owen and Vaughn mellow a sometimes frenetic pacing.

Unfortunately, some of the players seem uncomfortable with the meter, and some seem to be playing the comedy too hard and in doing so come across as cute. Cute doesn't work well with Shakespeare. And also unfortunately, an annoying opening-night audience of friends who howled and guffawed at every line and gesture just might have thrown the performers' timing off; it sure threw me off.

Presented by Declan Adams Theatre at Gardner Stages,

1501 N. Gardner St., Hollywood.

Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Jul. 6-29.

(213) 926-2726.

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