The Plays the Thing
Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing is perfect first-date material, the entire action of the play depending on a simple misunderstanding between young lovers. Take someone you love to the Vanguard Theatre Ensemble's production of this most beloved of Shakespeare's romantic comedies, and use this handy guide to display your refined intellect and emotional sensitivity:
YOU'LL SAY: "Did it strike you as odd that the noblemen in the play were all so happy—what with coming back from war and all?"
WHAT YOU MEAN:Much Ado takes place in Messina, Italy, back when the peninsula was a battlefield for bickering city-states. Conflict was more universal then, more purposeful, as opposed to the almost whimsical wars of ideals we fight today. Beatrice says of Benedick upon his return that she "promised to eat all of his killing." She was joking that there'd be none, but the line still sounds utterly callous to modern ears.
WHAT YOU GET: You've shown your ability to make abstract connections between the play and current events and to figure out your date's feelings on the Iraq War, a notoriously touchy subject.
YOU'LL SAY: "I enjoyed the way Christopher Goss made Shakespeare's language his own."
WHAT YOU MEAN: Most of Shakespeare is written in iambic pentameter—10 syllables per line, with the language cunningly arranged to sound natural despite the strictly regimented rhythm. Goss' Claudio speaks the words of men centuries-dead with unforced ease, as if he'd been out drinking with them the previous night. This doesn't detract from the other performances; there's a vibrant contrast between lyrical recitation and conversational language throughout the play.
WHAT YOU GET: You get to sound like someone who really listens to his or her date. You're smart—and sensitive.
WHAT YOU SAY: "Can you believe how quickly Claudio turns on Hero?"
WHAT YOU MEAN: You're sensitive to the ill-used women of Shakespeare. Despite Claudio's "soft and delicate desires, all prompting me how fair young Hero is," the man doesn't even ask for her side of the story before denouncing her at the altar.
WHAT YOU GET: Your date's response to this question will offer vital clues to his or her perspective on gender relations. Beware of any Claudio supporters: they are likely to rush to judgment.
WHAT YOU SAY: "Wasn't Patricia Francisco an inspired choice to play Hero?"
WHAT YOU MEAN: Hero and Claudio comprise the play's young lovers; theirs is a love-at-first-sight that requires visually striking performers—actors who are often the least talented. Francisco is stunning enough to suggest casting-couch comments but good enough to silence them immediately; Christopher Goss as Claudio is her ideal partner.
WHAT YOU GET: Their wide-eyed youthful exuberance betrays the dangers of such instantaneous devotion. If your partner doesn't like the cute couple, he or she might actually be dead.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING AT THE VANGUARD THEATRE ENSEMBLE, 120-A W. WILSHIRE AVE., FULLERTON, (714) 526-8007. FRI.-SAT., 8 P.M.; SUN., 2 P.M. THROUGH SEPT. 18. $20.
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