PROVO — Rain or shine, Utah Shakespeare in the Park’s production of Much Ado About Nothing was worth the risk. I packed my lawn chair, blanket and a couple of snacks and in my car, headed to Memorial Park in Provo, worried the entire time about being cold and rained on—always a risk with outside events. However, the sun shown through the clouds and the actors lit up that park with their wit and impeccable acting. I was so impressed. Even amidst distracting skateboarders and a very loud truck, the players kept their composure and carried the storyline professionally. I think anyone who attended would agree that this performance was spectacular. Maybe it was the environment, or perhaps it was because we were spread out on blankets and lawn chairs, but the camaraderie amongst the audience felt like we were all old friends, laughing delightedly together in unison.
For those of you familiar with Shakespeare’s original script, Much Ado About Nothing’s plot is an interwoven mess complete with love stories, betrayal, revenge, marriage and more. All of these elements, combined with the intricate plot and even more intricately placed phrases make this piece of Shakespeare one of my favorites.
Utah Shakespeare in the Park’s rendition of the piece was cut to 90 minutes and the language was delicately altered to retain the integrity of Shakespeare’s original work while making it “user friendly” for today’s audience. Their website even boasts, “Our productions are the perfect way to introduce Shakespeare to your children in a way that will make him beloved rather than boring.” There were a few children the night I attended and they seemed just as entertained as I was.
The stage consisted of a strip of grass in front of a huge pine tree. Behind the tree served as backstage and entrances were made from either side. No props were used to convey the story, besides a rickety bench in front of the tree, but honestly none were needed. The cast used facial expressions, body language and speech intonation to make up for lack of props. During two points in the production, Benedict and Beatrice actually came into the audience to “hide” from their fellow characters. This breach of the fourth wall truly committed the audience to the characters and made us sympathize more with the two young lovers.
Utah Shakespeare in the Park was a free production and as such didn’t have a program or any listing of the characters or the actors who played them. Even their blog doesn’t give detailed information about which actor played whom, so I will generalize by saying that all characters played their roles beautifully. I rooted for Hero during the fall and restoration of her virtue as I would a good friend; I internally booed at the Prince for his immediate dismissal of all things good; I admired Beatrice’s fiery personality and the fluidity in which her speech confronted her foes; but, I’ll admit, my favorite character was Benedict. He was hilarious in action, speech and facial expression. My favorite line of the night,
“That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks: but that I will hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick, all women shall pardon me. I will live a bachelor.”
Utah Shakespeare in the Park, excellent job- I think Will Shakespeare would be proud. Thank you for a fantastically enjoyable performance. I only wish you would do an encore performance so I could see it again.