Let it be known that the cast and crew of Shakespeare in Clark Park's Much Ado About Nothing have my deepest admiration. It can't be easy mounting a free production in what currently functions as the park's dust bowl. It's enough that those involved constantly have to wrestle their audience's attention away from mosquitoes, loose dogs, wandering children, and an ice cream truck blaring a looping "La Cucaracha" refrain. It's above and beyond the call of duty to do so during a week when the mercury plans to settle on or around a moist 95 degrees.
And yet somehow this company's take on Will's comic treatment of a pair of couples who attempt to resist Cupid's bull's-eyes provides a breezy respite from the weather. Directed by Alex Torra, scenes are alternately stylized (during a costume party, a moving tableau of guests in masks creeps en masse behind the foreground action), slapsticky (Johnny Smith's Dogberry channels Barney Fife-era Don Knotts), or naturalistic. The mix keeps things lively, and - combined with Andrew Nelson's Weill-style musical direction, heavy on the tubas and trombones - it not only drowns out that ice cream truck, but also helps create a self-contained sense of place in that uncontained space.