Shakespeare? Mexico? How do those two fit together? Well, they don't, but in Madison High School's production of the Shakespearean comedy "Much Ado About Nothing," they fit together perfectly.
Set in the Jalisco region of Mexico, four youngsters are searching for love. Two of them, Claudio and Hero, fall in love at first sight, while the other two, Benedick and Beatrice, are a rather unlikely couple. Despite pretended deaths, false accusations, and "bastard" brothers, the play ends with a touching double wedding and a dazzling wedding fiesta.
The first thing that caught my eye as we entered the theatre was the remarkable set … how a reddish light against a white mesh background accented the cinnamon colored and blue tile walls, and the second-story balconies with wooden railings. But the focal point of the stage was a tile fountain with water trickling out of it. I really felt like by walking through those theatre doors I had traveled to a different country, Mexico that is.
It's a difficult task to turn Shakespeare into something for everyone. There were several actors in "Much Ado About Nothing" that made it easy to understand what the characters were feeling. Beatrice, played by Sara Kern, had an aura about her from the moment she sashayed on stage.
Never breaking character, she brought Beatrice to life with her vibrant facial expressions and gestures. Beatrice's lover, Benedick, (Sam Ludwig) was an outrageous soldier who kept the audience rolling with laughter with every exaggerated move he made and every word he uttered. With unbounding energy and zeal for his character, Kai Chang as Claudio was convincing in his love for Hero and the audience couldn’t help but be endeared to him. All three dealt with any little mishaps that came along, like falling tiles, with grace, poise, and humor. “Much Ado About Nothing” exhibited the astonishing talent of these young thespians.
Dogberry and Verges, played by Keegan Cassady and Allison Crerie, respectively, made for a lively and hysterical ensemble, particularly in the "ass" scene. Though hard to understand at times, their ridiculous movements and chants amused the audience each time they appeared. Even though some of the actors lacked energy, overall there was an immense amount of passion and enthusiasm for their roles.
The tech aspects of this show were far above average for a high school production. Mexican music blared during the dancing scenes, coming on and going off at the precise time. No detail was abandoned in the females' costumes. They had flowers in their hair and bright eye shadow that matched their authentic Mexican outfits. Although the microphones were somewhat inconsistent at times, I hardly ever had trouble hearing the actors.
Madison High School's "Much Ado About Nothing," set in Mexico, was truly a rewarding theatre experience for anyone who was open to a different interpretation of Shakespeare.