Enemies-to-lovers trope brought back to the stage at IWU

Ethan Hart, Staff Writer

The School of Theatre Arts’ first main stage production of the Spring 2023 semester opened this past week in the Jerome Mirza Theater. 

Directed by Tom Quinn, head of the Bachelor of Fine Arts Acting Program, Much Ado About Nothing, set in 1810s Italy, follows Beatrice, Benedick, Hero and Claudio as they fall in love and struggle to overcome the scheming of the Prince, Don John. 

Written by William Shakespeare in 1598, the play remains a popular Elizabethan comedy that is still regularly performed around the United States today. 

This is, in large part, due to the hilarious enemies to lovers storyline of Benedick and Beatrice and the subsequent, witty quips between the two. This remains true for SOTA’s rendition, with senior BFA Music Theatre majors Jacob Nutti and Josie Correo truly stealing the show as the two. Their chemistry and comedic timing were unmatched, successfully leading the rest of the cast toward an evening of laughs. Though, truthfully, this was no surprise, the characters themselves are already such hits that the skill of the actors portraying them only made them better.

 What made this production different from other versions before it was its portrayal of the less developed Hero junior BFA acting major Grace Lumpkin and Claudio senior BFA music theatre major Bryant Cobb. 

Hero, as a character, is often overshadowed by Beatrice, with her main plot point being to endure the public shaming by Claudio at their wedding, being accused of having sex before marriage, only to take Claudio back at the play’s end, but only because others allow her to. 

Quinn attempts to give Hero more agency in her own story and to make the character of Claudio more redeemable for the audience. When Hero apparently dies, Quinn added a silent scene where Claudio goes to her tomb and cries in remorse for what he has done. 

Later, Hero chooses to reveal herself as alive to Claudio, choosing to take him back and marry him after seeing his remorse at the tomb. Another change was the gender swap of the two patriarchs of the play, Leonato and Antonio, to two matriarchs named Leonata and Antonia. 

This gave the women of the play more power, having female leaders who were on the same social status level as the male characters. These changes did not go unnoticed and were welcome additions to a favorite.

 Another scene that caught the attention of this author was the scene where the night watch catches Don John, junior BFA Music Theatre major Sam Fahrenkrug, lackeys when they reveal the plot to trick Claudio to destroy his wedding to Hero. Watchmen Juniors Kameron Rojas, Molly Clemente and Eliana Spitdler were hilarious in this scene, tying up Junior Joey Maltese-Miller and Senior Megan Christoferson to bring them to justice. 

The technical elements of the play perfectly complemented the play, with Senior Andy Taylor’s set portraying the grandeur of Italy and Senior Celeste Bontumasi’s lighting design mimicking the rising and setting of the sun to better show the passage of time in the piece. Overall, though Shakespeare may not be everyone’s cup of tea, SOTA’s Much Ado About Nothing had laughs for all, from fans of the Bard to newbies to his work. 

Don’t miss the next upcoming events from the School of Theatre Arts:

  •  Water Polo and Love: A New Musical: March 8th and 9th in the Phoenix Theater 
  • Love, Loss, and What I Wore: March 20-21 in the Phoenix Theater
  • Tintypes: March 24-26 in the E. Melba Johnson Kirkpatrick Laboratory Theater
  • On Stars Not Falling: March 29-30 in the Phoenix Theater