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Much Ado About Nothing opened Tuesday this week at William Peace University and runs through this Saturday. William Shakespeare’s comedy of traps, matchmaking, and wrongs-made-right is one of his most beloved works and William Peace Theatre takes on a challenge with this piece.
Co-directed by Eliza Laskowski and Wade Newhouse, Much Ado at William Peace has beautiful scenic and lighting elements with designs by Sonya Leigh Drum and Jennifer Mann Becker respectively. My questions in the designs arise in costumes: a few shoes didn’t quite fit physically or with period and I continually tried to figure out why all the military men wore white jackets that easily wrinkled throughout the show.
Hilarious performances from junior Maigan Kennedy, who played Dogberry, (and Dogberry’s team of officers played by sophomore Amber Martinez, freshman Mary Lynn Bain, and sophomore Alexandra Finazzo) and guest actor Kevin Roberage’s thoughtful and lively performance as Prince Don Pedro added great depth to this production. Beatrice, played by junior Rachel Pottern, and Hero, played by junior Abbe Fralix, each allowed the audience to see into their lives in a truthful way, but their romantic pairings did not allow as much. I struggled to believe that sophomore Tyler Graeper’s Benedick loved Beatrice or that sophomore Delphon L. “D.J.” Curtis Jr.’s Claudio loved Hero.
Sophomore Sara Johnson played Hero’s father, Leonato, in a pants role (a woman playing a male role as a man), as did freshman Rosemary Richards, who played Beatrice’s father, Antonio. Senior Daryl Munroe played the villainous Don John and her character’s actions were not affected by being a pants role. However, the fatherly roles, I believe, were affected by young women trying to play fathers instead of, perhaps, mothers. Leonato’s rage at Hero’s undoing did not carry the nuance of a parent’s reaction, and I wonder how this scene would have changed if Leonato had been Leonata. Nonetheless, Johnson and Richards took on a challenge and were able to find the comedy their characters offer in the matchmaking schemes.
It has been three years since William Peace University has performed a Shakespearean play, and it might have done them better to have taken more time between their large musical Spring Awakening and the challenge of Shakespeare. With spring break and snow days in between, this production has had a lot to overcome but still has great potential.
Performances of Much Ado About Nothing run until Saturday, April 5 with performances at 7:30pm and a 2:00pm matinee on Saturday, as well. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.