WESTLIBERTY, W.Va., April 23, 2021 — West Liberty University’s Hilltop Players will perform Shakespeare’s beloved Much Ado About Nothing, April 23-25, 2021 despite the challenges of the pandemic.
However, the play is reduced to two live and masked performances only, one at 5:30 p.m., Friday, April 23 and a second at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 24. These are open to families and students only due to social distancing concerns.
“We are seating guests in every other seat and every other row, so we sold out today’s performance quickly. But we are pleased that the students will have this chance to perform in public,” said Meta Lasch, who is the set and costume designer.
The play is directed by theater adjunct Shelby Garrett.
“With its engaging plot of deception and self-deception, mistaken identity, its provocative treatment of gender roles, and the inclusion of upbeat songs, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is sure to delight audiences,” said Garrett.
According to Michael Aulick, WLU’s theater director, “The giddiness of the game of love, tempered by conspiracy, enflames this witty and enchanting romantic comedy.”
Like all of Shakespeare’s plays, “Much Ado About Nothing,” which he wrote in 1599, flouts convention, defies classification, and resists categorization.
The production is a music-filled adaptation of Shakespeare’s play and is set in 1945, with modern flourishes (necessary due to the current quarantined world).
While men were away at war, women had assumed a new status marked by independence and self-reliance that, however brief and bittersweet, guaranteed that things would never be the way they were before the war. Those changes are reflected in the feisty, independent Beatrice, the more traditional, but emergent Hero, the spirited Margaret, and the proud Antonia.
“We have stuck to the spirit of the piece, we are focused on the language, but we have taking creative license when we thought it was a good decision. One major decision was to use female actors in roles that are traditionally male. Shakespeare used boys to play women and we have flipped the script on him and have several women portraying male roles,” said Aulick.
“Beatrice, played by Alexandria Glover, and Benedick (Grant VanCamp) hurl barrages of clever insults at each other in a way that makes one wonder if Shakespeare was predicting the role of Twitter in our lives,” said Aulick. “Benedick is determined to “die a bachelor,” and Beatrice would rather “hear a dog bark” than hear a man say he loves her and yet, Don Pedro has something up his sleeve #fooledintolove.”
It’s not all fun and games in Messina, though—not when there’s a villain, Don John (Ben Games), sowing seeds of rumor and alternative truths for no reason but to make others as discontented as he is; and not when the innocent Hero (Emma Gragan) is defamed by Claudio (Calian Byard), the love of her life, and forsaken by her own father, Leonato (Josie Jarrett), just as she is about to be married.
No need to fear, though! The day—and the comedy—will be saved by an unlikely crew of seemingly hapless officers of the law, led by the indomitable Master Constable Dogberry (Delaney Bird), who does as much damage to the English language as she does to the villains’ plans.
Other cast members are Doug Torres as Don Pedro; Greyson Grimmett as Antonio; Benny Mounsey as Conrade; Odessa Hores as Borachio; Delaney Bird as Verges the puppet; Merritt Craft as Ursula; Autumn Carver as Margaret; Keenan Seditz as Balthasar; Fiona Rushton and Dominic Martin as the Watchmen; Isabella Costantini as the Soldier.
For more information, email Professor Aulick at [email protected].