Ashley Huizinga- Staff Writer
The stage is set. 1950s Hawaii. More Hawaiian shirts than you’ve ever seen in your lifetime and dresses that any Disney princess would kill to wear. Crooning renditions of “Sh Boom Sh Boom (Life Could Be a Dream),” birdsong and…Shakespeare?
Dordt Theatre Art’s production Much Ado About Nothing opened last week on the Thursday evening of Defender Days, with a Saturday matinee and evening performance following.
For this play, the cast brought their respective characters to life with wit, sparkle and hilarity in ample measure. Even the small touches – for example, the ushers being in character as they directed guests to their seats – proved delightful.
“This has been one of my best assignments – that is, as a member of the prince’s watch,” said Constable George Seacole (aka junior Josh Bootsma).
The staging was also beautifully done, with nearly seamless lighting transitions from night to day and back again. The designers’ and crew’s attention to detail gleamed in sharp relief even before the first scene began, with palm tree silhouettes, calm purple lighting and a mysteriously-lit bungalow window.
“The stage extensions took a couple of months to build,” said freshman crew member Victoria Brander. “This is my first time building for Dordt and my first time at the actual performance. I’m excited, but nervous because I’ll notice every little thing, from the scuff marks to the divots in the rocks from people walking on them. Still, so far, it’s been really satisfying.”
Senior Nathan Ryder and sophomore Janelle Cammenga played “the sensible Benedick” and “sweet Beatrice,” both delivering liberal doses of sass, sarcasm and put-downs on both sides and leaving the audience crowing in delight. Each conversation between the two quickly became “a skirmish of wit,” doing full justice to the original script that must be heard to be believed. Beatrice/Cammenga’s “base though bitter disposition” matched up well against Benedick/Ryder’s “noble strain of approved valor and confirmed honesty” as “the prince’s jester.”
Being a reproduction of Shakespeare’s own Much Ado About Nothing, the dialogue was quick, cutting and appropriately pretentious as befitting the 16th and 17th century playwright. While some lines and unfamiliar words might have required context and clarification to be fully understood, it could be said that the cast did their part very well. After all, what’s a flubbed line or two when those lines contain such words in common conversation as “enigmatical,” “vigitant” and “poniards”? From “I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face” to “If they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad,” I found myself laughing at all the right moments and holding hushed silence for the rest of the two hours and twenty-two minutes.
Favorite part? Which favorite part? Are you referring to freshman Aidan Bender’s entrance from stage left, wearing the deepest scowl I’ve ever seen anyone pull off in sandals and a flowery Hawaiian shirt? Perhaps junior Ellen Inggrid Dengah’s masterful hula during the masquerade dance? Or maybe the coordinated and wistful girly sigh of junior Erica Liddle and sophomore Makiela Shortenhaus? Senior Nathan Ryder’s pretended toothache? Audience selfies with the guards at intermission? Freshman Harrison Burns’ wiggling finger motion as he pronounces the weather to be “drizzling rain”? Senior Eric Rowe’s squeak of nervous laughter at approaching
the formidable Leonato (aka senior Kyle Fosse)? Ah, but you must be referring to Benedick/Ryder’s rising falsetto as he composes a love poem to woo his lady.
In short, the show proved to be “a fantastical banquet; so many strange dishes.”
“You are tedious,” Leonato/Fosse accuses his neighbors, and he speaks true – but the whole of this play proved far from tedious.
“This is my third time watching the show,” said freshman Alisha Giesselmann. “All my friends are in the cast, and it’s different enough every night that it’s really worth going more than once.”
Audience members left with smiles, cast members left with flowers and I walked away with another great memory attached to Dordt’s Theatre Arts Department.
Did I enjoy this production? Well, no more than reason.
Much Ado doesn’t officially strike until the night of Saturday, Oct. 20. Until then, it’s worth doing your best to catch one or two of the next few performances, held Oct. 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30pm.