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Queens Chronicle

Quirky costumes and modern details spice up ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Shakespearean actors swathed in trash bags

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Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 10:30 am

It’s easy to get lost in the “ye sayeths” and “doth command thees” of Shakespearean prose, but with emotion and modern flair the Queens Players make “Much Ado About Nothing” accessible.

“We worked really hard to find comedy in the script and very often, although one must be aware that knowing the language is important ... we realize that timing and occasionally slapstick take the place of study,” director Richard Mazda said. “We ran several clown workshops during the rehearsal process to help the actors with the physicality of their roles.”

The play’s plot goes like this: Benedick, the prince’s friend, and Beatrice, the governor’s niece, pledge separately never to be such fools as to fall in love. But when their friends and relatives, Claudio, a count, and Hero, Beatrice’s cousin, fall in love, they join together with a whole slew of characters to trick the love-cynical pair into falling for each other, which they do.

But as these two are falling, the marriage of Hero and Claudio is thwarted by the prince’s evil brother, who pays off a guy to sleep with one of Hero’s attendants dressed in the bride-to-be’s clothes. Her fiance sees the duo getting frisky and believes his love has betrayed him.

In a dramatic wedding scene, he refuses to marry Hero and dishonors her in front of her father.

But the family recoups and launches a Romeo and Juliet-like plan wherein Hero fakes her death.

When the family gathers confessions from the home wreckers, Claudio repents for believing such slander, Hero’s honor is restored and the couple is married.

They then live happily ever after.

The play is presented in keeping with the Queens Players motto to stage classics in a thought-provoking way. The show will run at the Players home base, the Secret Theatre, through March 2.

The lights go up, and in come the messengers — three men and one little woman with a yell as big as her counterparts’ stature— dressed in yellow-and-orange vests fashioned out of trash bags, designed by the trash bag whiz, Long Island City-based artist Beth Garrett, whose works were recently on display nearby at Found Materials for the Arts.

The maidens have flowing dresses and aprons with big, bright pink bows in their hair — all made from plastic bags.

The friar’s white robe — made out of bags.

The effect adds a lightheartedness, a we-don’t-take-ourselves-too-seriously quality that the audience can relate to.

Other modern touches let the viewer get into the script that was created more than five centuries ago. For example Benedick gets drunk from Heineken beer, the chamber maid drools over boys like a 21st-century schoolgirl and when the friar launches into his monologue, he does so with Southern Baptist flair — all swagger and hands up in the air.

The set combines a nonchalant vibe with a modern touch. Instead of having meticulously painted backdrops the stage is lined with brown paper boxes, some of which emulate hedges to hide behind in two of the most comedic scenes of the play.

These are scenes in which Benedick’s and Beatrice’s relatives and friends on two separate occasions reveal information about the other’s love to somewhat trick them into admitting their feelings to each other.

“Whether 400-plus years ago or present day, most people will recognize the archetype of two friends who are obviously attracted to each other while not able to express their feelings,” Mazda said. “I think the comedy works even for a modern audience because the nature of attraction and how people express that has not really changed over the centuries.”

‘Much Ado About Nothing’

When: Through Feb. 23 and Feb. 27 to March 2 at 8 p.m., and Sunday Feb. 24 at 3 p.m.

Where: Secret Theatre, 44-02 23 St., LIC

Tickets: $18, secrettheatre.com

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