Winter is arriving and there is nothing but gloom and doom in the economic forecast. What better time to see one of the most brilliant pieces of escapism ever written?
William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is the last true comedy that Shakespeare wrote before he went on to write his four brilliant tragedies – Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Macbeth. Before writing these sad masterpieces, he still had one more beautiful diversion in him – one of his best.
The play begins with a celebration. The War is won! Shakespeare is deliberately vague about what war it is and who was fighting. It’s enough to know that all is well with the world. We are quickly swept up in the burgeoning romance between Claudio, a much admired soldier and Hero, the daughter of Leonato, a fun-loving and wealthy landowner. The young lovers’ romance is thwarted by Don John (in this playful gender-bending production, Dawn John), a classic Shakespearian baddie who sets out to ruin things simply because it makes “her” feel good to do so.
While Claudio and Hero’s story is funny, romantic and compelling, Much Ado is most famous for its sub-plot. The story of Beatrice and Benedick is one of the funniest comic stories ever told on stage. Both of these characters make it known beyond a doubt that they have no interest in the opposite sex and have no intention to marry. They also make it clear that they cannot stand each other. Over the course of the play, through a series of hilarious schemes played on them, it emerges that beneath the witty insults that fly, they are absolutely, completely in love with each other.
In this lighthearted production, Shakespeare’s setting of idyllic Messina, Italy has been recast as the sunny Mediterranean in the late ‘50s. Why? No reason other than that it must have been an awfully fun-filled place to be during a time of great optimism and hope. Besides, it affords the opportunity for a wonderful jazz and samba soundtrack and some great ‘50s beachwear. In other words, there is no need to take this play all that seriously. Play close attention though to the great work of the students of the theatre department of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. Ken Jacobsen, Grenfell’s chair of English, is also featured in the plum role of Leonato. There is some serious talent being showcased in this very un-serious show.
Much Ado About Nothing is being directed by award-winning director Michael Waller in his Grenfell debut. Set and costume design are by roy Hansen-robitschek with lighting design by James Chalmers-Gow.
Much Ado About Nothing plays nightly at 8 p.m. in the Fine Arts Theatre from Wednesday, Nov. 12 to Saturday, Nov. 15. Tickets are available at the college bookstore or at the theatre box office on the evening of each performance. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. For more information call 637-6223.
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