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Gerald Carpenter: Elite Theatre Company Makes ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Shakespeare comedy is in production now through April 3

William Shakespeare’s sparkling comedy of the war of the sexes, Much Ado About Nothing — produced by Tom Eubanks, directed by Andrew James and with choreography by Jeff Wallach — is in production now through April 3 at the Elite Theatre Company, 730 South B St. in Oxnard.

Unlike many of Shakespeare’s comedies, Much Ado About Nothing shares with As You Like It and Twelfth Night the distinction of being really funny — as Kenneth Branagh’s brilliant 1993 film of the play demonstrates beyond all argument. Even the clowns and lunkheads manage to avoid tedium. The verbal sparring between Beatrice and Benedict sounds awfully contemporary, and the absurdities of the plot are treated as absurdities even as they are unfolding, which is always satisfying to our existential sensibilities.

Interestingly, Branagh’s was the first sound film of Much Ado About Nothing that managed to get released into the theaters. Romeo and Juliet, on the other hand, is not only the most filmed of Shakespeare’s plays, it may well be the most filmed play of all time. One concludes that the film-going public would rather watch the poetic self-immolation of teenagers than the poetic, if argumentative, reconciliation of attractive and intelligent adults.

Composers were a lot quicker off the mark. Hector Berlioz wrote a delicious comic opera based on Much Ado About Nothing, Béatrice et Bénédict, in 1862, and the Irish-born by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford brought out his own Much Ado About Nothing in 1901.

But, as the relative obscurity of both these operas attests, verbal wit is pretty much irrelevant to an opera’s success. Even though Branagh pulled it off, Much Ado About Nothing is not very cinematic. It belongs on stage, with live actors. Its wit has to bounce off three walls, and to listen for the echo from the audience.

Tickets to Much Ado About Nothing are $17 for adults, and $15 for seniors, students and those with military ID. Call 805.483.5118.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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