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Shakespeare gets a 2020 twist in Hub Theatre Company’s ‘Much Ad About Nothing’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Shakespeare gets a 2020 twist in Hub Theatre Company’s ‘Much Ad About Nothing’
Hub Theatre Company will perform “Much Ado About Nothing” on Zoom this month. PHOTO: COURTESY HUB THEATRE COMPANY

William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is getting a very 2020 makeover in the Hub Theatre Company adaptation, running virtually in four performances Nov. 14, 15, 20 and 21. The classic comedy follows a group of soldiers who are resting at the home of wealthy governor Leonato after a battle. In the Hub version, adapted by director Bryn Boice, the soldiers are doctors who have been fighting COVID-19 at local hospitals and are now quarantining at the governor’s home. The circumstances may have changed, but the delightful romantic chaos that ensues remains the same.

In addition to the change of setting, Boice has brought in contemporary slang, references to the halted stimulus conversations in Congress and a diverse and inclusive cast. “It takes place as if it were in a Zoom call,” says Jaime Hernandez, who plays the former soldier (now doctor) and love interest Claudio. In some ways, the wild miscommunications of “Much Ado About Nothing” are even more viable when video calls and glitching Internet connections are involved.

For Regine Vital ,who plays Leonata, the gender change for her character has been an interesting adaptation. “I’ve been reading Shakespeare forever, I study Shakespeare as an academic, I know this character so well from one particular vantage point,” says Vital. “And now I have to think of it completely differently as a woman in 2020.” Leonata is attempting to arrange a marriage for her daughter to an eligible bachelor, and in this 2020 version, is struggling to use the technology that keeps everyone connected during the pandemic.

Though many of the show’s actors have been performing readings and shows on Zoom since March, the medium still presents challenges. Vital mentions that she’s had to scale everything down. Where projection and exaggerated gestures are necessary during an in-person theater show, these don’t translate in an up-close and personal Zoom performance. Not seeing scene partners or audience members during the show is also a disruption. “It’s not normal to talk to a dark circle,” says Hernandez. “But I know that the audience is still enjoying their time … I know it in my heart.”

For audiences, “Much Ado About Nothing” will ideally serve as a humorous and timely respite from pandemic stress. It also provides important work opportunities for actors who have been struggling to find work, or have been completely out of work, since theaters closed in March. Both Hernandez and Vital stress the importance of hiring actors during this time. Hub Theater Company is paying the talent for “Much Ado About Nothing,” though they always offer shows on a pay-what-you-can basis to provide audience accessibility.

“I think anytime we can reassert the value of artists in our society, that is tremendously important and vital,” says Vital. “Having the ability to have some sort of community experience and catharsis is really important.”