Much Ado About Nothing, one of the best known and best loved of Shakespeare’s comedies, has been entertaining audiences for well over 400 years before its staging at Weber Theatre. Featuring warring lovers, mistaken identity, and bumbling watchmen, the play has remained immensely popular among audiences and is significant as a rare Shakespeare production to be performed on Wheaton’s main stage. It has received a modern reboot, with the setting moved from Sicily to a beachside villa, but the cast brings the sparkling language and sarcastic humor of the original to life.
Much Ado, which opens November 8 and runs for six nights, also marks the last performance of director David Fox’s Wheaton career.
“I think there’s an expectation to put on a good show,” says Ian Hamilton ‘21, who plays the role of Benedict. “We want to send him off with a bang.”
Many cast members spoke of the warmth and energy Fox brings to the stage and his role as a mentor to countless performers and theater students, both inside and outside of the classroom. Whether experienced with theater or involved in their first mainstage production, the actors have dedicated themselves to making this last performance the best it can be. Throughout rehearsal, the focus has been on the creative process rather than Fox’s upcoming absence, which the cast believes is reflected in his choice of Much Ado About Nothing. “It’s something light and something happy,” says Lorenzo Condemi ‘19. “It’s a good note to go off on.”
Alivia Cross ‘19 has enjoyed seeing the production come together over the past several weeks. A senior theater and dance studies major, this is her fourth year of involvement with theater at Wheaton. “There’s a leap that happens when you put people on a set for the first time,” she says, referring to her design for Much Ado, which was constructed by a team of students including those in the “Stagecraft” theater class taught by Colin McNamee. She also acknowledges Fox’s influence in every aspect of the production. “It’s been great getting to know him as a person and as a professor.”
The show’s large cast has become even more tight-knit as rehearsals have come to an end. “There’s 17 people,” says Akhshaye Lohia ‘21, who plays Don Pedro. “You need everyone to work together in order to make it work.” The closeness of the actors is reflected in their overwhelming enthusiasm for the performance, especially considering that many of them are appearing in a mainstage production for the first time. “New people bring such a great energy,” says Winslow Robinson ‘20. “It’s a different kind of excitement.”
When asked about their expectations of the audience’s response, cast members disagreed with the criticism that Shakespeare plays don’t hold the same appeal to contemporary audiences. “I just think there’s a misconception about Shakespeare, that it’s dull and dry. I’d like people to set that misconception aside. It’s a comedy,” Cross says. “There’s always something that can be made relevant.” Lohia believes that the timelessness of the themes explored in Much Ado About
Nothing – romance, intrigue and deception – negate any apprehension about the difficulty of the language. “We’re still doing his plays,” he adds. “They’re untouchable.”
Sarah Maliarik ‘20, who plays Hero, wants the audience to experience the energy and passion that went into the final production. “I just hope everyone enjoys it. It’s a really great group of people, a great group of actors. We want you to be able to laugh and cry with us.”
Hamilton agrees. “I hope everyone who comes in is ready to have fun.”