The Bard gets the Southington touch

By MIKE CHAIKEN
EDITIONS EDITOR
One of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies gets the Southington Community Theatre treatment next weekend.
Promotional materials for SCT’s production explained, “Attracted to each other, the maddeningly skeptical Beatrice and Benedick are dead-locked in a lively war of words until their friends hatch a plot to unite them. The mutually devoted Hero and Claudio, on the other hand, all too quickly fall victim to a malicious plot to part them.”
The comedy is noted for Shakespeare’s commentary on the nature of love.
Amanda Savio, who plays Beatrice, said, she likes that Shakespeare is telling audiences that “love wins. Despite emotional, familial or physical boundaries, and despite the scheming of some vengeful bad guys, you have a happy ending with a lot of joy and a lot of love.”
Brett Aiello, who plays Benedick, said Shakespeare is telling audience, “Communication is key. How many romantic comedies have been created that draw from so many of ‘Much Ado’s’ elements of deception and confusion? I think the audience is sharp enough to realize from the moment Benedick and Beatrice engage in their ‘merry war’ of wits in the opening scene that they care for each other. The other characters probably realize it too. Benedick and Beatrice are too stubborn to recognize it or confront it. Don John’s villainous deception crumbles if Claudio takes the time to approach Hero and talk to her about it instead of shaming her at their wedding in front of all their friends and family.”
Carolyn M. Ciarrochi, who plays Hero said, “The beauty of Shakespeare’s approach to love in ‘Much Ado’ is that he demonstrates the many forms in which it comes. My character deeply loves and respects her father. She has grown up under the protective wing of her cousin Beatrice, and they have a powerful bond. Hero and Claudio, to paraphrase our fabulous director Peter Pristic, are our most classic example of love at first sight… Beatrice and Benedick show us that the opposite of love is not hate; in fact, sometimes they are bedfellows.”
Mike Rabiej, who plays Claudio, said Shakespeare’s message is “the fact that we can all, at one point or another fall victim to a kind of deep, maddening love without giving it too much thought. It’s as though sometimes, when presented with a possible romantic interest, we see the world through rose colored glasses. We may believe things we shouldn’t, do things we shouldn’t, or simply behave in a way that is not how we normally would.”
Shakespeare also touches upon the nature of gender roles in “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Amanda explained: “I think what you see in the characters of Beatrice, Benedick, Hero and Claudio is that, at their core, they are ruled by their hearts. Hero and Claudio are much more obvious about that fact, and Beatrice and Benedick do their very best to cover up their feelings for each other – but I believe each one of them are ruled by their emotions and hearts. So in that case, there isn’t much difference between men and women.”
 “In classic patriarchal fashion, the men of ‘MAAN’ go off to war, make decisions, arrange marriages, and have their emotional outbursts catered to – because if a man shows emotion, he must have good reason,” said Carolyn. “Hero is the timid, obedient daughter of an overbearing, controlling, but well-meaning father. She participates willingly in this system that keeps her safe and secure, guarantees her future. Beatrice, on the other hand, speaks out, makes use of her wit, resists being married off like chattel, challenges the status quo, and is proud to know her own mind. What a radical, trailblazing character she was for Shakespeare to create.”
“I really, really like how (Shakespeare) makes the men in the story the ones who are to be laughed at,” said Mike. “The way Benedick comes across is just hilarious, because as tough and stone faced as he may want to act sometimes, it is so obvious that he wants Beatrice for himself but he is so caught up in keeping a ‘cool’ image, that he unknowingly makes a fool of himself in the process. As far as Claudio, I like how he is the one who falls so deeply for Hero, and has such mood swings when things do and don’t go his way. I think in today’s world, we accept the fact that women have strong emotions, but I think men do too, even if they are more secretive in how they show them. I see Hero and Beatrice as the strong-armed ones in each relationship and I think that’s a great thing—seeing the men make fools of themselves while the women show true strength.”
“Much Ado About Nothing” also is considered one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies.
Amanda said: “There’s all sorts of different comedic elements. Audiences will be immediately drawn in by the battle of wits between Benedick and Beatrice, but also laugh at the physical comedy of the same characters as they lay in hiding, victims of the aforementioned deception.”
Mike said, “I just love how you cannot take anything that is said too seriously. There’s a roller coaster of emotion throughout the whole play, and seeing the characters behave in the ways they do because of what others say, is truly hilarious.”
Audiences often view the show as one of their favorites of the Bard.
“I think the story is relatable today, and our production makes it even more relatable, as it is set in present day,” said Amanda.
Brett said,  “There are never any dull moments in ‘Much Ado…’ It’s funny. People like to laugh.”
 “Everyone can find a character or thread of the story to which they relate,” said Carolyn. “We’ve all experienced the fire, confusion and heartbreak of the first real love of youth. We all have that one person, that one connection, that can turn sweetness to snark in no time flat. We have a cousin to protect, a brother to stand beside, a parent to rebel against.”
“You can immerse yourself into the nonsense and go on a hilarious ride that you know is going to end just fine, because quite frankly it’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’” said Mike.
As for the audience appeal of the SCT production, Amanda said, “I think the fact that we are setting it in present day makes it more accessible. I think sometimes people hear that you are doing a Shakespeare play and think they won’t enjoy or understand it, or that it’s fussy and old. Making the setting, the dress, and the technology very 2015 immediately makes it more understandable and therefore, more enjoyable, I think.
Carolyn said, “We are taking a modern approach. (Director) Peter (Pristic’s) vision has led us to something really special.”
“It’s so funny,” said Amanda to the audiences considering coming to the show. “It’s fun, full of heart, and features a cast of 18 people who have been working for three months to make sure our audiences have a great time with us.”
“Audiences will enjoy this production because the cast enjoys it,” said Brett.
“Each person involved in this show has worked so hard to make it a success, and I’m just very excited for the audience to see everything put together,” said Mike.
“Come laugh, enjoy the beautiful language, and let us tug on your heartstrings for a couple hours,” said Carolyn.
Southington Community Theatre will present William Shakespeare’s comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” on April 23, 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m. and April 25 at 2 p.m. at Derynoski Elementary School, 240 Main St., Southington. Tickets are $15 (in advance and at the door). Tickets for the Saturday matinee are $10. Tickets are available at Just For You….Country Gifts, 979 Meriden-Waterbury Rd , Plantsville, The Music Shop, 405 Queen Street , Southington , online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1396615 and at the door.
For more information, visit www.southingtoncommunitytheatre.org, email southingtoncommunitytheatre@gmail.com or call (860)543-3865.

The cast of Southington Community Theatre’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’

The cast of Southington Community Theatre’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’