By Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Special to The Village News 

Love is in the Night


Last updated 8/24/2018 at 10:36am

Jim Cox

Claudio (Carlos Angel-Barajas) declares his 'love at first sight' to Hero (Morgan Taylor).

Dear Reader,

Is it my smug assumption that somewhere along the way, I have become a guide to help you determine how to budget your time and money by offering my learned opinion in respect to the various theatrical productions offered in the San Diego area? Should that be true, here is the hottest tip of the year!

Get tickets for this season's finest production to date. "Much Ado About Nothing" is playing only until September 16 at The Old Globe center in Balboa Park at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre under the stars. It is pure bliss. Sublime. Fabulous. Spectacular. Romantic, while just a bit saucy.

And while it is Shakespeare, do not groan, director Kathleen Marshall has whipped it into a new genre for all time. (Yes, Ms. Marshall is indeed from that Marshall family). Not to be defined by her DNA, she has re-envisioned a somewhat humorous 400-year-old play. Too often spoken in a spittle ridden falsetto, Marshall is using a modern vocal tempo which is easier to follow.

The play's timeline has been moved up to the 1930's along the Italian Riviera. It's early summer and life is easy as the story is told.

One might wonder how one could possibly improve on The Bard's words? Easy. Just add music! Who knew? I know. Marshall added a violinist and a guitar player. I know it sounds bizarre. But, it works splendidly.

And along the way, she (Kathleen Marshall) must have spent every spare ducat budgeted at The Globe for the entire year! For instance, have you heard about this famous set designer? Mr. John Lee Beatty was appointed to the American Theatre Hall of Fame a few years ago. His ideas can't be cheap because for one thing, he used 140 gallons of stucco just for the front of the Italian villa. And then he added a lush forest of lighted cypress trees plus two working fountains. You just wait until you see his scenic design.

The costume designer Michael Krass is renowned for his style. So, you know the costumes look like they are straight out of Paris. Each and every one is a work of art.

Additionally, Marshall has lured a collection of the finest technicians here like sound designer Sten Severson who makes you hear what you feel.

Complementing his work is Stephen Strawbridge the lighting designer. He is known to reshape space by setting a mood and he does here too.

And now for the cast: The leading lady is Sara Topham as Beatrice. The sharp-tongued spinster who has the comedic timing of many of the great funny ladies like Hepburn, Ball or Burnett. She is the shining star that propels the dialogue.

Standing up to her is Benedick played by Michael Hayden. His devil-may-care nonchalance is just the right temperature to make her blood boil.

Friend to all is the fair Hero, played by Miss Morgan Taylor a recent graduate of The Old Globe/USD Shiley Graduate Program. Let it be noted she portrayed her meek character with the grace and style befitting her role.

Her fiancé Claudio was played by Carlos Angel-Barajas, another of the Shiley program's students. We watched him wear his emotions as they surged with extreme happiness upon meeting his dear Hero before turning into anger and fury and lastly his display of absolute humility.

Leonato, Hero's father, is played by the veteran Shakespearean actor Rene Thornton Jr. with majesty.

Michael Boatman playing Captain of the Guard, Don Pedro is back after a brilliant performance in Robin Hood. He brings the same strength of character to this part.

And then we meet Manoel Felciano playing the deliciously contemptable part of his jealous brother, Don John. He is responsible for the mischief created by his assistant, Borachio played convincingly by Eric Weiman.

As the wicked plot unfolds causing confusion none is more confusing than the appearance of Dogberry the night constable. He along with his band of watchmen do indeed save the day. Bumbling and muddled, Fred Applegate's charming misspoken tale of betrayal is punctuated by Verges' (James Newcomb) triumphant bugling heralding his entrances and departures. Additionally, there are a number of lesser parts in "Much Ado About Nothing" as messengers, maids, gal-pals and the watch which move the show forward to its happy conclusion. Yet none as important as the wily Friar Francis as played by Daniel Ian Joeck. Classically trained, his authoritative demeanor saves the day.

Earlier I mentioned there was music in this show. As it turns out, there is lots of music provided by two talented artists, music director Abigail Grace Allwein plays the violin like an angel while James Michael McHale strums guitar. Their lighthearted instrumentals add a lot of romantic texture to the show.

It's a hit! Get yourself to this show before you miss the play of the year! Congratulations to the Artistic Director, Barry Edelstein for persuading Ms. Marshall to return to The Old Globe.

Performances run Tuesday to Sunday. Evening times vary. Valet Parking is prepaid for $14.00 or find the free parking throughout the various lots. Box office: (619) 234-5623 or This show is rated 10+.

The writer can be reached at

Jim Cox

Beatrice (Sara Topham) listens closely as Benedict (Michael Haydent) final admits to his strong feelings for her.


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