After half millennium, Shakespeare’s comedy still brings laughs
For many, the name Shakespeare may conjure up images of high school English class and of dreary-eyed students taking turns sleepily mumbling out 16th century prose that they seldom comprehend.
Shakespeare’s genius is lost among un-honed recitations and the aged euphemisms that rarely compute when first read off of the page. It’s not until many actually experience a proper Shakespeare production that they realize that the English class renditions of their youth were the equivalent of listening to a symphony from underwater.
Director BJ Gailey’s rendition of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was one such proper production. Gailey masterfully brings Parkland’s first original Shakespeare script to life. Vibrant and excellent cast performances mean that the Old English script reads more like a comedy spoken in eloquent poetry, rather than an archaic dialect that few can readily make sense of.
Last Thursday, Nov. 9, saw Parkland’s Harold and Jean Miner Theatre packed with a large crowd, almost a full house, for the production’s opening night. The play began at 7:30 p.m. sharp and lasted for about two hours, including a 10–15 minute intermission in which the audience members had access to concessions like cookies and sodas in the theatre lobby.
With every word enunciated perfectly and lively emphasis given to every line, there was seldom a moment in the performance when audience members would be hard pressed to follow the complicated language of the dialogue.
In fact, the use of the original dialogue proved to be more of a boon to the performance, rather than a drag, as audience members were able to enjoy an evening listening to the stirring and poetic English language as it once was; in a more complicated, yet more beautiful form. The excellent cast performances ensured audience members could fully take in the eloquence of the original language, in addition to easily being able to follow along.
Being able to enjoy laughs from such a refined medium, rather than the often crass material put out in modern pop culture, will likely leave many leaving the performance feeling refreshed.
The original script combined with the skilled acting makes for tremendous comedic chemistry. Gailey and the actors themselves are to be credited too, as many laughs were also coaxed from the audience thanks to the cast’s additions of physical comedy into the show.
Several creative anomalies were also present. One was the play being set in the 1940s rather than Victorian England, an alteration that had little overall effect on the story. The other was the role of Benedick being played by a female, rather than a male, as was originally intended, especially since Beatrice, Benedick’s love interest, was still portrayed as a female.
If at first this choice might seem a bit odd, but any confusion is rapidly cleared as it becomes obvious that the portrayal of Benedick not only by but also as a female, hilariously portrayed by Abby Gailey, is just a creative choice rather than an attempt to alter the story.
The play changed little for the decision as Gailey continually brings many laughs and delivers a truly enjoyable performance opposite Chelsea Zych as Beatrice.
A beautifully put together continuous set also quite literally sets the stage wonderfully for the cast’s performances.
The play has already had four performances but will have an additional four starting Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. which will also be the production’s “Educator’s Night.” According to the theatre website, Parkland students and teachers will get special pricing of $9 per ticket. School groups of 20 or more will get reserved seating. In addition to the play, there will be a talk-back with Director BJ Gailey, Scenic Designer Brian Morgan, as well as members of the cast and crew. Nov. 17-18 will also feature shows at the same time, although the special pricing will not be in effect.
Sunday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. will be the final production of the performance, bringing a close to Parkland’s first original Shakespeare.
Standard ticket prices are $13 for students and seniors, $15 for adults, and $9 for youths. For large groups of 20 people or more, tickets will be discounted to $11.