Much Ado About Nothing
UCF School for the Performing Arts
Adapted by Ranjit Bolt from William Shakespeare
Directed by Mark Brotherton
Starring Sterling Street, Athena Jean-Etienne
Presented as a Live stream on ShowTix4u
If you can’t tell a horse from a hawk from a husband, you might be from Messina. Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” gains its popularity from a complex romantic entanglement and broadly comic gags. Tonight’s production is a modern adaptation that ditches the Elizabethan text for contemporary English brough to us by a state-of-the-art digital stream. Big guy Leonato (Sammy Pontello) gets some good news: his good friends Don Pedro (Giuseppe Michael Pipicello) and Benedick (Street) are back from a war so he invited them to stay a month or so. Now, Benedict takes a dislike to Leonato’s daughter Beatrice (Jean-Etienne) and she reciprocates. As they spar, Claudio (Christopher Hancock) and Hero (Alexia Comeau) plan to marry, and since they get along perfectly, they are the Good Couple, while Benedick and Beatrice play the bad couple. You can see where this is headed.
Unlike so many Shakespearean comedies where the humor becomes lost in a sea of linguistic antiquities, these gags work and land with a modern audience. It’s also highlights the lightweight plot, but we must remember Mr. Shakespeare wrote for the masses. Thus, this translation is packed with modern gags and story points a post-Covid audience can understand. The Beatrice – Benedict grabs your attention; there’s nothing like a good love – hate dance. And you can always buy them crockery for the holidays; they will happily throw it at each other. My favorite character action came from the minor role of Dogberry (Will Sippen). He delivered the funny goods with his timing and wild characterizations. And I’m happy to report Sir Benedict is a snotty punk, full of himself and a danger to anyone around him. He needs a woman with a strong fast ball to keep him in line.
I’m not allowed to say Shakespeare can be improved upon, but this is an excellent translation bringing this favorite into the 21st century. The casting shows an excellent selection of UCF theater students, just itching to get out in front of an audience. And for an online show there’s a good bit of costuming here plus the Brady Bunch layout of the actors wasn’t as annoying as it could be. So far, this is my favorite Zoom production: it has a good cast, good direction, and a clever use of digital distribution.