Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, Much Ado About Nothing, performed by the very talented members of Oglethorpe’s theater program in the Conant Performing Arts Center. The play made its debut Thursday, the 21st of February.
The moment I entered the theater, the set, designed by Oglethorpe’s very own Jon Nooner, drew me in with a beautiful fountain piece and soft, pastel lighting. There were a few wooden trees in the background that were used throughout the play by several characters to hide poorly behind as they listened into other characters’ conversations. The set remained the same throughout the play, but this did not take away from the scenes or their fluidity.
The play takes place in Messina, Italy, where a nobleman named Leonato (Philip Visoso-Roman) is preparing to welcome from friends home from a war. He lives with his daughter Hero (Laila Henderson), sister Antonia (Grace Den), and niece Beatrice (Verina Todorova). The friends include a prince named Don Pedro (Michaelo Masi), the well respected soldier Claudio (Alex Ray), and the humourous soldier Benedick (Ethan Weathersbee). Don John (Tucker Hammonds), the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro, tags along as well. Upon their arrival at Leonato’s home, Claudio falls in love with Hero, while Benedick and Beatrice pick up where they left off in their war of witty remarks. Claudio and Hero quickly decide to be married, and in the week leading up to their wedding, the two and their friends decide to try to get Benadick and Beatrice to stop arguing and fall in love instead. In the background, Don Jon plots with his companion Borachio (John Carter) to ruin the wedding before it can proceed by tricking Claudio into thinking he saw Hero with another man. However, the night watchmen (Jamie McConnico and Veronica Mitchell) hear Borachio boast of their crime and arrest him, and what ensues is complete hilarity as everyone struggles to uncover the truth and debunk their feelings
Each actor is worth noting, but standouts include John Carter, Emily Schultz, Alex Oakley, Verina Todorova and Ethan Weathersbee for their exceptional comedic timing and acting chops. They all played very well off each other and much of the laughter heard from the audience can be attributed to them, not just because of the lines they had to speak but the way they spoke them. Something interesting to note is that the role of Antonia was male in the original playwright, but the talented Grace Den was cast and it can be assumed the role was changed to accommodate her (and rightly so).
Director Laura Hackman put together an amazing show with smooth scene changes, a clear focus and unmatched cohesiveness. No actor pulled focus when they shouldn’t have, and every character was clearly important, from Hero to the watchmen.
In addition, the lighting design of Bryan Rosengrant and costume design of April Andrews enhanced the show in its own ways. The lighting was cleverly used to communicate day and night, as the scenery did not change, and the choice of soft pinks and oranges really set the tone. The costumes were unique to each character, and you can get a glimpse of their personalities through how they are dressed. Every element of the scenery and costumes complimented each other. My only critique would be that the actors did not wear microphones, so when background sounds like crickets were played, or when the fountain came on toward the end, I was slightly distracted by how loud it was and had to focus a little harder on what the characters were saying. However, I did like that the fountain came on; it was a nice touch.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this production and I hope everyone found the time to see it this past weekend. If not, I encourage readers to see the future Oglethorpe productions to come- they will surely be of the same quality.