In their 25th annual summer performance, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival brought one of its namesake’s most witty plays into the twentieth century.
The company sets one of Shakespeare’s wittiest comedies against the backdrop of World War II near its end. With the new setting, the Festival also combines Elizabethan language with big band numbers to create an interesting and highly entertaining production that shouldn’t be missed.
The songs themselves, new to the play, may come off cheesy at first. Despite the simple language and somewhat corny dance moves, the good voices and entertainment offset any uncertainty they may create. The songs serve their purpose well and help give the audience yet another reason to laugh between monologues.
While all the actors play their parts extremely well in the show, the true stars are Patrick Waller as Benedick and Evelyn O’Neal Brush, who shines as Beatrice. The two play off each other beautifully and draw the audience into the battle of the wits that is their love story. The two quickly become the main characters of the play, though the true core is the love story of Claudio and Hero. But what is true love in comparison to sarcastic insults?
The wit of the dialogue is sharp, but what is more entertaining is show’s interaction with the audience. Traditionally, the actors speak to the audience at times and feed off their response, but this company does more. Actors end up hiding, tripping, sitting and even eating in the audience to avoid being seen on stage.
The smaller moments in the play add even more. When an airplane flies over, the audience is sure to get a reaction from the cast, just as the cast gets a rise out of the crowd when they break out an accordion.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is a fantastic play as it is, and this production is well worth seeing. Bring snacks and spend an evening enjoying the show at the Centennial Park bandshell.
The play runs every Thursday through Sunday, plus a special Labor Day show, until September 16 in Centennial Park at 7:30 p.m.. Admission is free, but a $10 donation is suggested. If going on a Friday or Saturday, be sure to get there more than an hour early to get a good seat.