If gossip is the currency of a college campus, then William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” brimming with he-said she-said deception and beguilement, seems the perfect selection for adaptation by the University’s School of Music, Theatre, & Dance.

Much Ado About Nothing

Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Power Center
Tickets from $18

The Messina, Italy-based comedy, to be showcased this weekend at the Power Center, features a dichotomous set of relationships: Hero and Claudio are fresh-faced lovers whose relationship is threatened by the destructive plot of a conniving outsider. Meanwhile, the silver-tongued, romantically unlinked Beatrice and Benedick are unknowingly subject to matchmaking.

“Much Ado” director and School of MT&D professor John Neville-Andrews praised the play’s multiple dimensions.

“What I love about ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is that it has so much variety in there,” Neville-Andrews said. “It’s not just a straight comedy. It’s certainly not a tragedy, although very tragic events take place, and it’s not just a straight drama; it has all of that in there.”

School of MT&D junior Allison Brown, who plays the witty Beatrice, detailed the comedic significance of her character.

“She’s definitely part of the comic relief and part of the love story within ‘Much Ado,’ ” Brown said, “because her and Benedick fight all time, and they really end up loving each other despite their wits.”

Neville-Andrews further acknowledged the anchoring effect of the Beatrice/Benedick dynamic, which he described as “verbal jousting” in an e-mail to the Daily.

“This merry war of words creates a great deal of enjoyment for an audience because they recognize the painful situation these two lovers are in, but eagerly anticipate a positive and romantic ending,” Neville-Andrews wrote.

Providing a foil to the wordsmith Beatrice is her cousin, Hero, played School of MD&T senior Erin Cousins. She explained the difficulties of portraying a reserved personality in a venue like the Power Center which, according to its website, seats more than 1,300 people.

“The character is very soft-spoken and quiet, so that is a kind of strange thing, is how to balance creating this character that’s supposed to be very shy and demure, but still be a large enough character and interesting enough character for people to notice you on this big stage with this huge set,” Cousins said.

Also contributing to the romantic crosscurrents is Don Pedro, portrayed by School of MT&D senior Paul Koch. According to Koch, Don Pedro (a prince) serves as a rallying force for the men in the production and who, despite his arrogance, manifests his own personal complexities.

“I think that kind of bombast, that confidence, is a cover for some other stuff,” Koch said. “And that’s always interesting to play; it’s always really interesting to play a character that is oscillating on a number of different levels.”

Neville-Andrews noted that a few modifications have been to the play. Not only has “Much Ado” been shortened for length, but it also now takes place in the 1920s. According to Neville-Andrews, this gives a contextual justification for the strong female role of Beatrice and also strengthens audience connection to the production.

Still, Neville-Andrews observed, the Shakespearian language has not been modernized. According to Koch, this requires actors to provide a relatable performance ― one of “naturalism.”

Though multiple storylines pepper the narrative, Neville-Andrews pointed to overarching, noble themes touted by Shakespeare.

“I think if there is any message to be taken from ‘Much Ado,’ it’s don’t judge people too quickly or harshly, investigate anything negative you’re told before you act and remember love, compassion and truth will conquer all,” Neville-Andrews wrote.

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