It is always interesting to see how actors and directors choose to do Shakespeare. He is a slippery fellow, the Bard, and “Much Ado About Nothing” is one of his slipperier comedies. It starts out as a “hangout comedy,” a term meaning a show where we just like to sit back and enjoy a bunch of characters going about their entertaining ways. The play takes a sharp left turn into the serious after a false accusation, only to wrap itself up happily in a bow, the whole problem indeed being much ado about nothing.
But that leaves the production choosing to mount this particular play with a challenge. Namely: how to give this whole thing some weight or at least keep things fun and memorable. Though this is not the easiest task a lot of the time, Shakespeare has an excellent escape route, as the play has in its leads two of his best characters: Benedick and Beatrice. They can best be described as the first romantic comedy couple. Played in Lawrence University’s production by juniors Olivia Gregorich and Kip Hathaway, they are nothing less than a winning team, one that more than deserves your respect.
They deserve so much of your admiration in fact that I will praise them individually. Gregorich was previously showcased in “Somewhere North” and “The Test,” and her portrayal of Beatrice was an excellent example of a character utterly at ease with herself. She was a Katharine Hepburn-esque example of affable haughtiness. Therefore when her mask cracked to reveal an enormous depth of feeling, Gregorich’s performance was one that would make any performer feel proud.
Hathaway, having previously established himself in “Street Scene” and “Rimers of Eldritch,” delivered a performance so great that if there was by chance a Hollywood agent in the audience, he would have been instantly whisked off to become a comedy star in the Bill Murray/Andy Samberg vein. It is almost impossible to describe how funny he is, if only because of his sheer physicality in the role. It was so full of bizarre and hysterical nuances that make no sense unless seen in the proper context, while at the same time he showed that when the chips are down he can deliver earnestness and honesty. This guy is a star, sign him up and make him famous.
The rest of the cast acquitted themselves well, though their roles were not as juicy. Sophomore Evie King delivered a very good Dogberry that was admirable and pitiable at the same time. The set design and music cues were also very choice, with admiration especially going to the lighting team, who were able to cue even the subtlest of changes. While this may be minor Shakespeare, Lawrence’s production did an excellent job to elevate the material. The Bard would nod in approval, if he was not too busy laughing.