Annapolis Shakespeare Company founder and artistic director Sally Boyett-D'Angelo is having a busy summer. She's presenting classic theater outdoors with weekly productions of Moliere's 17th-century comedy "Tartuffe" on Tuesdays at the Reynolds Tavern courtyard in downtown Annapolis.
At the same time, she's rehearsing Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," which opens of the company's third season this Friday at Bowie Playhouse.
A recent rehearsal at the troupe's Chinquapin Round Road studio showed why, under Boyett-D'Angelo's guidance, "Much Ado" is both engaging and comic.
Intent on making Shakespeare accessible to contemporary audiences, Boyett-D'Angelo has the Bard time-traveling. Action is set in the 1950s post-Korean War era, as returning soldiers and naval officers meet at a Caribbean motel where love is discovered, and denied.
Shakespeare's comedy becomes current in its story of Prince of Aragon Don Pedro's follower, Claudio, and Duke of Messina Leonato's daughter, Hero. Their love-at-first-sight experience may or may not result in marriage, especially after the bride's innocence is questioned.
Meanwhile, Leonato's niece Beatrice engages in comic banter with another of Don Pedro's followers, Benedick. The two seem unaware of their mutual attraction; everyone except Benedick and Beatrice knows they are meant for each other, which becomes clear through a comic series of events.
The exchanges between the two spark when set to 1950s bebop rhythms, a credit to Theresa Sweet Bouma as music director and Ken Skrzesz as choreographer. Skrzesz has led more than 200 stage works, and his expertise is clearly showcased.
The action is set against a backdrop by scenic designer Steven Royal, whose credits include "Altar Boyz" at Tysons Corner's 1st Stage, and "Holly Down in Heaven" at the Forum Theatre in Silver Spring. Here he creates an island setting, highlighting a motel surrounded by palm trees with a neon sign reading "No Vacancy."
The recent rehearsal displayed Boyett-D'Angelo's directorial skills. Six actors, led by ASC veteran Alex Foley, rehearsed a single scene until it satisfied everyone.
In this show, players and director project the young company's consistently high production values. Boyett-D'Angelo's guidance inspires a collegial exchange of ideas and, ultimately, an excellent production.
"Much Ado About Nothing" runs Aug. 2-18 at Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 and $24, with student and senior discounts available. Go online at AnnapolisShakespeare.org or call 410-415-3513.
Meanwhile, theater-goers seeking a midweek diversion might consider an outdoor performance of "Tartuffe," on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. in the courtyard of Reynolds Tavern. Doors open at 6 p.m. for dinner and drinks. Tickets for the performance are $12 and may be ordered by calling 410-415-3513.
Looking ahead, Annapolis Shakespeare Company's 2013-2014 season at Bowie Playhouse will include "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Dec. 6-22; "Hamlet," in a modern adaptation, March 28-April 13, 2014; and "The Tempest," Aug. 1-17, 2014.
Boyett-D'Angelo said the company's 17 shows this past year averaged 85 percent filled, predominantly with the coveted 20-something age group, which she believes bodes well for the growth of the troupe.
"I'm super excited about the season," Boyett-D'Angelo said. "We want to make Annapolis a destination for theater by a Broadway-caliber cast."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun