GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Deliciously complex and funny, William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” was performed Sunday afternoon for the umpteen-teen-teen-teen-teenth time in history.
This time, the performance was outdoors under the sun with much of a large audience under shady trees in historic Whitney Park.
The resident Shakespearean had primed her cast of players from Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, Seymour, Stevens Point and St. Paul for a go at a tale of love and deception, complete with music from a live band.
The players’ voices were amplified by wireless headsets.
Some players accentuated their movements so that expression carried, too.
This was a product of Play-by-Play Theatre, “Green Bay’s first professional regional theatre company,” under the auspices of Downtown Green Bay.
Such a collaboration happened in the past, in the B.C. – Before COVID-19 – and now it was back, looking healthy.
Not everything happened cleanly in the performance, such as the occasional headset going on the fritz.
Laughter did roll, though.
The sense in the air was the audience enjoyed what was happening, that the event was worthy, that the fellow William Shakespeare had something going for him.
The story involves the rocky road to the altar for two couples – Benedick (Will Knappen) and Beatrice (Júlia Garcia), and Hero (Sanibel Harper) and Claudio (Alex Sabin). Messing things up for them are errant family units, deliberately villainous Don John (Eric D. Westphal) and his misled brother, Leonato (Steve Westergan).
Benedick is not keen on marriage. But then he gets his head turned and says one of the play’s famous lines: “When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.”
Beatrice, meantime, has grumbles of her own. Notably, “Oh that I were a man!”
Meantime, meantime, the lied-to Claudio dumps Hero at the altar, quite literally.
Music enhanced key scenes, including Fleetwood Mac’s “(You Can) Go Your Own Way” and “Dreams” (thunder only happens when it’s raining) with the band featuring vocalist Kasey Schumacher applauded each time.
Meantime, meantime, meantime, dead-on comedy relief came in bundles from Dogberry, the constable (Mike Eserkaln). This master of the night watch – a self-important blowhard with a way with mumbo jumbo – gave the impression that Shakespeare was a scribe for the local ComedyCity. The funny business got a lot of laughs, topped with applause.
Director Carolyn Silverberg created in her players a sense of kinship and pleasure. The production was an accomplishment, with the afternoon attendees affirming that.
Running time: One hour, 51 minutes (no intermission)
Creative: Playwright – William Shakespeare; director – Carolyn Silverberg; stage manager – Elizabeth Jolly; artistic director/music supervisor – Mary Ehlinger; costumes – Debra Jolly; sound op – Scott Wildeman
The People of Messina:
Beatrice – Júlia Garcia
Hero – Sanibel Harper
Leonato – Steve Westergan
Margaret – Grace Sergott
Ursula – Lydia Skarivoda
Antonia – Sallie Meyer
Borachio – Martin Prevost
Benedick – Will Knappen
Claudio – Alex Sabin
Don Pedro – Jerah Doxtator
Don John – Eric D. Westphal
Conrade – Ali Weaver
The Body Politic:
Dogberry – Mike Eserkaln
Verges – Maggie Monte
George Seacol/Messenger – Ashlee DeGrave
Hugh Oatcake/Messenger – Mary Spencer
Watchman/Friar Francis – Alex Gruber
Kasey Schumacher (vocals)
Matt Silverberg (drums)
Dustin Skenandore (guitar)
Tony Pesavento (bass)
THE VENUE: Whitney Park is located at 800 Main St. in downtown Green Bay. It is a 2.64-acre neighborhood park that includes a shelter with rest rooms. On the south side of the park is a small, raised bandstand-type structure with open sides and a roof for performances. The park is named for Daniel Whitney, an early entrepreneur who in 1829 purchased a swampy area and platted the town of Navarino. Whitney left a block in the center of town for public use. Following his death in 1862, the square was named Whitney Park. The park is the oldest in the Green Bay system of parks.