The Play’s The Thing

The Play’s The Thing

Frothy comedy has a deeper message

NWA Democrat-Gazette

William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is frequently cited as one of his frothiest comedies: Characters Benedick and Beatrice spend much of the play verbally sparring and angrily flirting. “There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her. They never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them,” says Leonato of the couple in Act 1, Scene 1. It isn’t long before they realize what the audience knew from the start — they’re made for each other. But the director of the Crude Mechanicals production of the show (and the company’s artistic director) Zyan Ward cautions audiences to not dismiss the play as simply fun and froth.

“Sometimes, it’s played off as a very light, frilly romantic comedy,” says Ward. “But the show has a lot to say about the power of words and deception. In today’s climate, I think the power of words, the power of misdirection and persuasion — those are things that definitely need to be addressed.”

Ward also notes that the play will get the blood pumping with action-packed scenes that include extensive fight choreography.

“We’re very lucky to have Charlie Rodriguez working on this show,” says Ward. “He has studied at [London’s] The Globe Theatre, and he specialized in fight choreography. Basically, I can put a sword in his hand and tell him roughly what I want the characters to do, and he makes it happen. It was amazing to watch him do that.”

The Crude Mechanicals’ summer shows are produced in Fayetteville’s Gulley Park, where the environment is ripe for picnic baskets laden with delicious summer fare. Ward points out that watching Shakespeare plays performed outdoors hearkens back to the original productions.

“For me, it gives [the show] a very raw and sort of in-your-face experience,” he says. “In Shakespeare’s time, at the Globe Theatre, they put on their shows usually around 2 p.m. and used the daylight as their lighting. They were probably no more than two feet away from their audiences, and a lot of the soliloquies would have been directed towards the audience. We like to even put some of our scenes out in the audience instead of on stage, because, really, as an audience member, it envelopes you. You suddenly feel like you’re not just watching a play — you’re part of the action.”

Another plus of the unique setting: It makes it a perfect family-friendly event.

“The fight choreography isn’t very graphic ,” notes Ward. “And the more mature innuendos are hidden well enough to where a child wouldn’t understand the jokes. I think kids would get something out of [the show], too, with the direction that I’ve been taking it in. I like to involve a lot of slapstick and physical comedy . I think it has something for all ages.”


‘Much Ado About Nothing’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. June 29-July 1

WHERE — Gulley Park Gazebo, 1850 E. Township in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — 263-2274

Categories: Family Friendly