But if some of the comedy feels forced and some of the drama overwrought, director and designer Benjamin Evett’s production concept captures both the festive feel of much of the play and the party’s-over melancholia of a few scenes (set here in a dim, near-empty hall amid the detritus of celebration). And the show beautifully suits the old-fashioned, high-ceilinged elegance of Hibernian Hall — though the ambiance better fits the production’s first act than its second, in which the play takes to the streets, the hoosegow, and a mausoleum. As usual, ASP’s use of multiple casting is ingenious, even if the switching contributes to the overplaying. After all, if lanky Doug Lockwood is to hop back and forth between depressive villain Don John and the puffed-up, incomprehensible Dogberry, he wants us to know which is which.
But at least in their main roles, the actors are fine. Plum, removing her pointy, red-framed glasses upon surrendering to love, conveys almost from the beginning the vulnerability of prickly, brainy Beatrice. And Snee manages to seem both debonair and silly — often at once. As Don Pedro, the prince ordering both the troops and the romances, John Kuntz is elegant and benevolent in a tux; deploying a conical party hat as an ear trumpet, he does overactive double duty as Verges. Kami Rushell Smith proves a sweet and — breaking into the Ella Fitzgerald hit “Imagination” on her wedding morning — sweet-voiced Hero. Johnny Lee Davenport is a stately, grizzled Leonato driven to impressive wrath when convinced his daughter is a slut. And Sheldon Best does such a good job of ameliorating Claudio’s callowness with heartbreak that you almost don’t mind the rejecting jerk’s getting the girl in the end.
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