John Mark Reynolds, 2004.
Torrey Honors Institute Biola – THI: “Apr 25 – Torrey Theatre Club Presents William Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing'”
If you are anywhere near Biola, you must come see this play. Simply a rollicking good time, with the kind of sincere “gee whiz” performances and direction that remind you that Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney could have put on a play of Broadway quality in an old barn. Steady amateur acting and first time directors, who know their stuff surprisingly well, made it a treat for me. Beatrice is one of Shakespeare’s strongest women. Beatrice. Again. It should not remind me of Dante, but I cannot avoid comparing. Shakespeare’s maiden is so much like the personality I would love to imagine Dante’s Beatrice had before she died. Spirited. Sharp tongue that can slice and heal. Shakespeare’s Beatrice is a real woman, not a saint at all. Dante worships his Beatrice. Shakespeare kisses his. Good summary, I think, of the difference between the Italian and the Anglo-Saxon.
The script is, of course, sublime. Is there any way to review Shakespeare? You are tempted to purple prose, worse than is normally the case. At one point, a character refers to the soul in control of the body. This one throw-away line captures the play. These folk struggle to allow their souls to control their bodies, their erotic desires. They struggle to be civilized. In the end, by following the advice of the priest, they do it. The Church helps tame them by leading “Hero” through death and sorrow to life and marriage. Of course, marriage. Everyone must get a wife. Men who are alone, especially men who are alone, become unhappy. Isn’t that utterly true?
Finally, I just love the kids in this play. Some of the best senior students who have ever tried to crack the mystery of Republic took a flying leap into Shakespeare. They may be bruised, but they more than survived. It is easy when you look at our culture to allow the media to focus your attention on the bad boys. Our culture assumes good kids are few in number and boring if found. That is just not true. At least at Biola they are everywhere, doing amazingly creative things, and saving the West by their very lives. They did Shakespeare. . . and the audience lived the story with them. A whole house filled with 275 people of all ages rooting for a cast to do the impossible and finish the three hour play in good order. There was no irony, no intrusion of a ham-handed director into the text of the play. It was pure. And I loved it and those marvelous kids. Go see it and know that so long as the United States can produce such people, there is promise.