Much Ado About Nothing
By Kimb Frey
Feb. 13 – 16, in the Studio Theatre, the Art, Music and Theatre Arts department presented a production of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“Much Ado About Nothing” is one of Shakespeare’s mid-career romantic comedies. It is a comedy in the classical sense as the hero gets married at the end, and it is a comedy in the current sense as it had the audiences in fits of laughter throughout the production.
Few seats remained unfilled when the lights dimmed to mark the opening of the Saturday performance of the popular play.
The Studio Theatre is a cozy little venue. So cozy that it gave audience members a slight taste of what it was like for Elizabethan theatre goers. Attendees sitting in the front rows were uncomfortably close to the actors as they roamed the outer edges of the stage. Undoubtedly, the smell was better though.
The story begins at the home of Leonato, governor of Messina, where a messenger arrives bringing news of the imminent arrival of the prince and his retinue. Leonato, played by Freshman Theatre Major Jared Rey, has a daughter, Hero, played by Senior Theatre Major Joy Christie, and a niece, the sharp-tongued and witty Beatrice. The prince arrives with Claudio and Benedick, who naturally become the love interests to Leonato’s charges, and much hilarity ensues. The prince also brings along his evil brother, played by Senior Theatre Major MacEwan Sanders, who throws a wrench into the happy proceedings, creating much ado about nothing. But, all is uncovered by the bumbling Constable Dogberry et al, and they all live happily ever after. Or do they?
As intended, Benedick and Beatrice steal the show with their biting repartee.
Senior Theatre Major Payton Williams played Benedick and delivered a star-worthy performance. His delivery in Act 2, Scene 1, where he is talking serious smack about Beatrice to the Prince, had the audience in raucous laughter. Adding to the already hilarious discourse, Beatrice, played by Junior Theatre Major Ciara Renée, enters the scene. Benedick’s reaction had me in tears.
He begged the Prince to send him anywhere but here:
“Will your grace command me any service to the world’s end?” Benedick said. “I will go on the slightest errand now to the Antipodes that you can devise to send me: I will fetch you a tooth-picker now from the furthest inch of Asia…”
Williams delivers these lines flawlessly and with conviction, clasping his hands and begging on his knees.
Renée delivered a “Lady Disdain” performance worthy of one of the wittiest of Shakespeare’s heroines, portraying her quick rejoinders most naturally.
What was not most natural, were the dance scenes.
In Act 2, Scene 1, the entire cast came together in a circle and did a slide and stomp number that was a bit awkward and weird. The cast continued this style of dance in the final scene, which detracted from our happy but ambiguous ending.
Another detractor to the performance was that loud squeaky board directly in the center of the stage platform, which drowned out Junior Theatre Major Dakota Barbee’s delivery of the unfortunate Dogberry’s lines.
Aside from these little distractions, and the occasional need for the actors to enunciate a little more rather than affecting a British accent, I felt the production was a success.
Shakespeare intended for his audiences to see his work performed, not read, which is abundantly apparent as much of the humor of “Much Ado About Nothing” jumped out from the performance in a manner it was unable to from the page.
Overall, I enjoyed the performance and rate it a seven out of ten.