‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre by Alyssa Denton

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FOUR STARS

Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre brings William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to life in 1982 Italy

Spun into an Olivia Newton John and Madonna-esque 1982 Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre’s teen production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Shakespeare expert Heather Sanderson and assisted by eight grader Emily Lyon. This production featured the sharp-witted excellence of Beatrice and Benedick as well as an overwhelming Italian vibe which was clearly given off by the colorful, highly decorated set.

Cast members of 'Much Ado About Nothing.' Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon Community Theatre.
Cast members of ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’ Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre.

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing follows the story of Beatrice and her cousin Hero, and friends, Benedick and Claudio who serve under Don Pedro the Prince of Aragon. After Claudio falls in love with Leonato’s daughter Hero, Don Pedro’s brother Don John does anything in his power to break up the marriage. Claudio and Don Pedro trick Benedick into thinking he loves Beatrice even though he swears he could love none. Beatrice who swears the same thing is tricked by Ursula and Hero that she loves Benedick. With universal Shakespearean themes of love, jealousy, cruelty, wit and gossip will everything work out in everyone’s favor?

The sharp-witted Benedick (Shawn Moses) and equally clever Beatrice (Sarah Peterson) complemented each other well in the fast-paced, comedic aspects. Conversely, the love struck Claudio (Andrew Schurr) and Hero (Jade Schaub) portrayed a very loving couple and played off each other wonderfully even when Schurr was pushing Schaub around, denying his love for her. Ensemble members, lady in waiting (Anna Rizzi) and first watchman (Vanya Bourjaily) were among other standouts in this production. While Rizzi had few lines she played off of the actions of the actors such as protecting Bennedick – which added to the hysteria of the scene.

The first wedding between Hero and Claudio was a standout, a stellar scene where actors Claudio (Schurr) and Watchman (Bourjaily) were very captivating. Schurr accused his love, Hero (Schaub) of having an affair, he started out the scene very lovingly and as the scene went on he got harsher and harsher until he was pushing and shoving Hero like a ragdoll. Bourjaily added to the scene by making it seem like a street fight and repeating the insults louder bringing the scene to life. The direction of this scene really stood out as well – however with the script cuts a portion of the scene could be confusing if you had no prior knowledge of the storyline.

With the small, intimate space that Heritage Presbyterian Church provides, the actors utilized the aisles as well as created different arc ways and unique entrances. Suzanne Parrish’s set design allowed the actors to preform cleverly and use the construction to their advantage such as Benedick hiding behind a fenced off area eavesdropping on the conversations of Don Pedro and Claudio. The lighting design by Robert Smith and sound by Sarah Lore and Liam Armstrong, enhanced the 80’s aspect of the show. While the lighting was very minimal there were problems. Each scene started with a song from the 80s to set the mood of the scene. While it was cleverly done, the actors would wait too long for the song to completely fade out before talking, leaving awkward pauses in the scenes. Because they were unmiced, it was difficult to hear them. The props and costumes were designed by Director Heather Sanderson and Laura Marshall. There was an overwhelming amount of props used, including clever horse masks that were used during the masked ball scene. Some props, like oversized glasses with large clown noses, were a tad bit distracting. The costumes accurately reflected the time era like Hero’s opening leotard, tights, and leg warmers combination which would really remind the audience of the 80s.

Cast members of 'Much Ado About Nothing.' Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon Community Children's Theatre.
Cast members of ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’ Photo courtesy of Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a Shakespeare buff, you would enjoy Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre’s comedic production of Much Ado About Nothing, played by twenty three actors ranging from ages 12-18. It joyfully brought the words of William Shakespeare alive in Italy to Alexandria.

Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

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Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre’s Teen Production of Much Ado About Nothing plays tonight at 7:30 PM and tomorrow at 3 PM at Heritage Presbyterian Church-8503 Fort Hunt Road, in Alexandria, VA. Purchase tickets at the door.

LINK:
Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre’s Teen Production of Much Ado About Nothing opens February 8th by Robin Parker.