MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, LiveWire Theater, at Stage Left Theatre. Seldom has Shakespeare's title felt so true, particularly because his vibrant comedy has been shrunk to 70 minutes. Director Chris Arnold believes Shakespeare "can be a hard thing to swallow" and "scares a lot of people away from his plays," and his goal is to provide a "pleasant distraction" in a time of war. But if he wants to compress the comedy, why add an irrelevant four-minute dance during which the credulous Claudio comes to suspect Hero sooner than he should, then forgets he suspects? Never has Claudio been so maddeningly inconsistent.
The Beatrice-Benedick subplot was freshened by having Deborah Craft as a sprightly Beatrice. But Glenn Proud as Benedick was energetic when he should have been eloquent, and the couple's witty dialogue garnered few laughs on opening night. Worst was Kimberly Logan's Dogberry--this language-mangling bumbler is a buffoon, not a control freak, and he's not hilarious because he shouts. The working assumption here is that nothing's funny without a wink and some mugging and that verse has to be interrupted by semaphore gestures and false emphases. It's a small triumph that LiveWire's sparkless production manages to preserve the plot.