There’s much ado about Shakespeare at Selby

DeAnna Wright and Dylan Crow star in the Asolo Rep’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”
DeAnna Wright and Dylan Crow star in the Asolo Rep’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Publicity photo

The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training concludes its 2017-18 season with William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” a classical comedy about two intellectual sparring partners, whose individual pride masks their true love.

Following a battle against his rebellious brother, the victorious Prince Don Pedro arrives at Messina with his officers Claudio and Benedick. Claudio is ready and eager to pledge his love to the Governor’s daughter, Hero, while the sharp-tongued Benedick resumes sparring wits with Hero’s equally quick and acerbic cousin, Beatrice. As Claudio and Hero wrestle with love and jealousy, Benedick and Beatrice are forced together in new and surprising ways, teasing both of them to reconsider the quiet intimacy beneath their loud, adversarial banter.

“ ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is Shakespeare’s most sophisticated comedy,” says director Jonathan Epstein. “So many plays of this period are in some way battles of the sexes, like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ or ‘Taming of the Shrew.’ In this play, however, a man and a woman — who already have a troubled history together —mutually cross the aisle to set the world straight. These wisecracking lovers and bumbling policemen have provided the inspiration for everything from ‘Private Lives’ to ‘When Harry Met Sally’ to the Keystone Cops.”

Historians believe “Much Ado About Nothing” was written between 1598 and 1599 — in the middle of William Shakespeare’s career — and has been documented as part of the entertainment of Princess Elizabeth’s and Frederick V’s marriage in 1613. The majority of “Much Ado About Nothing” is written in prose, instead of the pentameter verse commonly used by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, creating distinct patterns of speech between characters of different social classes and emotional states.

“ ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is one of Shakespeare’s most mature comedies — heartfelt, moving, chaotic, and very, very funny,” said Greg Leaming, Director of the Conservatory. “This production and the glorious setting of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will be a delightful way to round out this year’s Cook Theatre season. All 12 of our second-year students will shine in this lovely event. It’s a terrific way to celebrate the end of their second year of training before they step into next year’s season at Asolo Rep.”

Much Ado About Nothing will feature performances from second-year students Lawrence James, John Wilson Bennett, DeAnna Wright, Katie Sah, Andrew Hardaway, Olivia Osol, Scott Shomaker, Dylan Crow, Matt Kresch, Erik Meixelsperger and Sara Linares, with first-year student Carla Corvo.

Details: “Much Ado About Nothing,” through May 5, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 900 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota; $30. 941-351-8000, www.asolorep.org. Food and beverages from Michael’s on the Bay will be available for purchase before performances. Performances subject to cancellation in the event of inclement weather.