Much ado about something: Shakespeare on the Common shakes things up

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As the saying goes, all the world’s a stage. If you’re looking for theater this week, GBH Executive Arts Editor Jared Bowen has you covered. He joined the Morning Edition team to talk through three local productions.

Much Ado About Nothing

Presented by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company on Boston Common and free to the public, through August 7th

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company brings Shakespeare’s romantic comedy into the 20th century. Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, this production takes us back into the 1990’s. The plot revolves around two couples who publicly declare their disdain for each other but end up falling in love. These fraught romances heat up in an America where soldiers are returning home from the Gulf War and pop-culture is saturated with technicolor clothes and lots of gold, as hip-hop and grunge shape the soundscape. Jared Bowen says, “even the musical transitions between the scenes in this show have this 1990 sitcom element to them.”

While society at that time was becoming more open to gender and sexual fluidity, it was still dangerous to come out. That’s why Sandberg-Zakian decided to cast Beatrice and Benedick as a same sex couple — in this case it’s two women — in love. “This is what I love about the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company,” says Bowen. “They always give us some fresh interpretation of Shakespeare.”

Actors on stage wearing wedding attire.
Wedding scene, Much Ado About Nothing

Nile Scott Studios / Commonwealth Shakespeare Company

Presented by Company One Theatre, on stage at The Strand theatre through August 13th, pay what you want.

Francisca Da Silveira’s play “can i touch it?” is a hyper-local production with universal themes. Da Silveira is a local playwright, whose protagonist Shay Solomon is a business owner, single mom and community leader invested in Roxbury and Dorchester. “This is a very layered show,” Bowen says. “There is a lot packed into this tight production.”

The plot revolves around Solomon, who is working to get a loan for her beauty supply store and in the process, she sees how her bank is advancing gentrification in her neighborhood. Through Solomon’s beauty supply store, the play also explores Black hair politics by examining a question that many Black women face — like “can I touch your hair?” Bowen says, ” I find this very moving. It’s also a very hilarious play. “

Three Black women wearing casual clothes stand on a stage.
Schanaya Barrows, Chris Everett, Jada Saintlous in “can i touch it?”

Christian Ruiz / Company One Theatre

Grand Horizons

Now playing at Gloucester Stage Company through August 21st

Bess Wohl’s Tony Award-nominated play “Grand Horizons” is set in a senior living community with a focus on Bill and Nancy, a couple who has been married for 50 years. Bowen says this is a play that asks all kinds of questions. “It is a great comedy about what marriage means. Does it mean love? And when does that change?”

Bowen says in addition to the great writing, the lead actors bring great chemistry to the play. The onstage couple is played by Paula Plum and Richard Snee, a couple married in real life. “They have beautiful, masterful comic timing and there is just so much to enjoy and delight in this show,” Bowen says.

On older couple stands in a kitchen.
Richard Snee and Paula Plum in Grand Horizons

Jason Grow / Gloucester Stage

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Jared Bowen

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