Maybe you love Shakespeare. Or maybe, like me, you pretend to like Shakespeare in order to appear cultured and cool. Either way, you won’t want to miss the Prairie Players’ production of Much Ado About Nothing under the direction of Lisa Marie Tessier-Burch. I sat in on a recent rehearsal in order to provide you with a bit of a “trailer.”
When it comes to Shakespeare, I don’t believe in spoiler alerts. Given the complications of language, multiple characters with strange names, masquerades, misunderstandings, and downright deceits, the more you know about the play ahead of time, the more you’ll enjoy it. Case in point: did you know the word “nothing” in the title is a play on words? In Elizabethan English, “nothing” sounds much like “noting,” which meant gossip, overhearing, and eavesdropping—all actions around which the plot twists. We miss out on so much because we don’t clue in to these clever details.
For a comedy, Much Ado is pretty intense. Two love stories are intertwined. One follows the formal, romantic relationship between Claudio (Reid Noton) and Hero (Haley L’Heureux). The other couple, Benedick (Fabien de Freitas) and Beatrice (Laurel Giesbrecht), work hard to give the impression neither is interested in the other. They tease and insult one another mercilessly and deny they will ever marry anyone. The Bard gives them both some fabulous lines. Benedick: “When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.” And Beatrice: “I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.”
But their friends arrange for them to overhear conversations revealing how much each is loved by the other. I guess there’s something about believing you are the object of unrequited love that softens the heart.
Meanwhile, the overthrown villain Don John (Christopher Kitchen) carries out serious mischief against his brother Don Pedro (Jordan Thiessen) and Claudio, who helped defeat him. One of John’s men enacts a scene at Hero’s window in which a woman who appears to be Hero succumbs to the amorous attentions of a man other than Claudio. (You still with me?) John further arranges for Claudio and Don Pedro to observe this scene. As a result of seeing this apparent deception, Claudio angrily denounces Hero during their wedding ceremony and, with Don Pedro, storms off as the deceived husband-to-be.
The friar performing the ceremony (Jocelyn Lequier-Jobin) comforts Hero and arranges for her to be hidden as though dead, until Claudio regains his senses. (Hey, that plot device worked out all right in Romeo and Juliet, why not try it again?) Beatrice’s defense of Hero after her denouncement unites Beatrice and Benedick in the cause of Hero’s revenge, and they declare their love for one another.
In the meantime, Dogberry (a comically bumbling constable played by Adena MacLaren) and company stumble on the conspiracy against Don Pedro and arrest John’s men, who confess their guilt under questioning.
Soon Claudio is forced to admit his error in thinking Hero would deceive him and, believing her dead, mourns for her and agrees to marry one of her cousins. The “cousin” turns out to be a disguised and forgiving Hero. Beatrice and Benedick are also to be married. Don John tries to run off, but is recaptured. All’s well that ends well. Oh, wait. That’s another play for another day.
Rounding out the cast are Fran Myles, Rachael Clarke, Kelvin Bueckert, Lynn Grant, Avery Griffith, Lisa Voth, Krista Austin, and Ron Weir.
Love him or not, you can’t argue the Bard was brilliant. Come watch this lively performance and cheer on our talented local actors on April 26, 27, or 28 at the William GlesbyCentre. Show time is 7:30. Tickets are $15 and can be ordered online from the Glesby website, at the box office at 204-239-4848, or at the door.