Arts and Entertainment

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ brings drama, joy to South Whidbey

Laurel Livezy tightens Ahna Dunn-Wilder’s corset before returning to the stage.  - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Laurel Livezy tightens Ahna Dunn-Wilder’s corset before returning to the stage.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

The Island Shakespeare Festival presents a hilarious performance of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Director Rose Woods sends the audience into the world of Shakespearean comedy through the setting of an Italian circus troupe around the 1890s.

The play combines the drama and comedy of blossoming love between two couples. The only thing missing from the circus was an appearance by the former Freeland elephant.

Expect budding circus talent and big laughs as the company debuts under its new performing venue this season — the Big Top. Members of the festival raised $32,000 to purchase the tent in July. The tent completes the setting of the play and is sure to be a new staple of the festival. Costumes by Aloria Lanshaw kept with the whimsical mood of the play. Each troupe features a variety of tutus, corsets and circus hats.

The play follows the Circo di Messina troupe as they welcome the performers from Circo di Aragon. Members of both troupes fall in love. Benedick with Beatrice, a witty pair whose love is not easy to admit to each other. And Claudio with Hero, a young couple that the conflict centers on. The love from each couple contrasts each other as both succumb to trickery and, in the end, joy in this Shakespearean comedy.

The cast features Olena Hodges as Beatrice with David Mayer as Benedick and Ahna Dunn-Wilder as Hero with Gabe Harshman as Claudio. The cast also includes Miles Harrison, Matt Bell, Morgan Bondelid, Laurel Livezey, Damien Cortez, Cameron Gray, Valerie Huntington, Kent Junge, Melanie Lowey, Andrew Pearce and Cedar Stephens.

Lead actor Mayer delivers a terrific performance as Benedick most notably as he overhears his friends feeding him stories about Beatrice’s love for him.

Mayer makes the audience laugh as he finds every which way to hide behind the props and around the tent in the scene. Hodges as Beatrice exudes wit with crushing lines, initially denying Benedick. Together, their contrary love brought the audience to a roaring laughter.

Each actor in the production has a moment to make the audience laugh. Most notably when the villains Borachio and Conrad are brought to trial by Dogberry — Cortez — and Verges — Bondelid. The two actors comically bring the truth of Hero’s alleged unfaithfulness to light. The villains, played by Gray and Pearce, dodge questions but eventually unfold to Bondelid’s hands of justice.

Bondelid played multiple characters by using puppets throughout the performance.

Harrison succeeds in making the audience loathe his character, Don John, who deceives Claudio and his friends into believing a wrongdoing was committed by Hero.

This is the fourth season from Island Shakespeare Festival. Seating is provided under the tent. Audiences should be mindful of the varying weather and bring an extra blanket for the evening.

Admission is free. Shows begin at 5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 15 under the Big Top at the Langley Middle School field.

 

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