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Photo by Elsa Guillet-Chapuis - Courtesy of Bellwether Productions

As if there weren’t enough to admire about Joss Whedon already, he’s decided to follow up the ultimate comic book superhero movie (The Avengers) with a lively, original reimagining of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Cast almost entirely with actors who are familiar from their other work within the Whedonverse (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dollhouse), it was shot in luminous black & white at Whedon’s beautiful home—designed by his architect/producer wife, Kai Cole.

This spirited rendition of the Bard’s comedy of sexual misadventures manages to reach across the centuries by using a modern setting but never commenting on it. While newcomers to Shakespearean language may require some time to acclimate, it quickly becomes apparent that the situations speak for themselves—even if you can’t absorb the precise meaning of every utterance. What’s more, the actors seem completely at ease with this dialogue.

Led by a feisty Amy Acker as Beatrice and Alexis Denisof as Benedick, the ensemble breathes life into every comedic turn in this ode to the vicissitudes of love and romance. Whedon and his cast have fun with the incongruity of enacting this ageless play in a contemporary setting, and as a result, so do we.

If even a handful of Joss Whedon’s many fans give Shakespeare a try because of this labor-of-love, the prodigious writer-director will have struck a welcome blow for civilization. Well played, sir!