The Jewell Theatre Company staged their production of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” Nov. 1-3, putting a William Jewell College spin on a classic comedy.
“Much Ado About Nothing” follows several characters through a series of miscommunications and shenanigans, with two love stories at the forefront: that of Beatrice and Benedick and that of Hero and Claudio. While Hero is sweet-tempered, soft-spoken and eager to be married, her cousin Beatrice is quite the opposite, making generous use of her sharp wit and sharper tongue.
After the prince and both men’s friend Don Pedro helps Claudio secure the promise of Hero’s hand in marriage, he enlists Hero’s father, Leonato – in Jewell’s production changed to a female role, Leonata –Claudio, Hero and her waiting-women to help set up a romance between Beatrice and Benedick, who gleefully fling barbed comments back and forth at every opportunity under the pretense of mutual dislike. Before Hero and Claudio can be married, however, Don Pedro’s villainous brother Don John and his cronies set out to tarnish Hero’s reputation and convince Claudio to leave her at the altar.
When he does, Hero faints at the accusations of promiscuity, and it is publicized that she has died. Claudio and Don Pedro are remorseful upon learning that their actions have resulted in Hero’s death, and due to the comically bumbling-yet-successful night watchmen having overheard Don Pedro’s cronies talking about their involvement in his scheme, the two learn that Hero was innocent after all.
Leonato offers Claudio the hand of a never-before-seen girl who is conveniently similar to Hero, and he accepts. At the wedding she is revealed to be the very much alive Hero, to Claudio’s joy. Beatrice and Benedick, each having learned the things they overheard about the other being in love with them to have been fabricated, declare the lack of love between them, only to have love poetry each has written about the other snatched from their respective possessions and traded; they come together again, confessing they must be in love after all.
The highlight of Jewell’s production is by far Caroline Seitz and Terrace Wyatt, Jr., in the leading roles of Beatrice and Benedick. Their natural delivery of the lines and lively, expressive acting are a delight to watch, and when they interact their combined energy is electric, Wyatt’s lighthearted and hilarious Benedick playing off of Seitz’s cynical and sardonic Beatrice splendidly. Their performances were complemented by the more subdued Leonata, played by Kyra Little, and chuckling Don Pedro, played by Samuel Person. As the other prominent love story, Emma Mayfield’s Hero is delightfully sweet and believable next to Jaimeson Satterfield’s earnest and heartfelt Claudio.
The production features a versatile set, the location only being significantly shifted for a scene set in Hero’s bedroom, and the cast and crew execute the transitions between scenes seamlessly. The transposition of Shakespeare’s text into the 1940s is supported by the mood-setting music choices and costumes, which are well-chosen to emphasize each character’s individual personality.
Overall, Jewell’s “Much Ado” is entertaining and great fun to watch. The Bard would be proud!
Photo courtesy of Jewell Theater’s Facebook page