Like all theater companies, the First Folio Shakespeare Festival prohibits photography during their perfomances. But how was I to know that while I was taking a picture of the set of Much Ado About Nothing the guy who plays Verges would come scampering out to warm up the audience with a pre-play comedy and juggling act? I apologize to First Folio if I have accidently broken the non-photography rule, but the hyper-kinetic actor came zipping into the frame before I knew he was there. If he appears blurred here, it’s because he was blurred in real life as he dashed around the picnicking audience begging food, moving blankets, making people perform juggling tricks with him, and STEALING MY HAT!
You know the play, Much Ado: Basically, we have the little world of Leonato’s villa and Don Pedro’s officers conniving with the author to get everyone happily married despite their best efforts to remain miserable. The most stubborn holdouts — and for that reason, by the Law of Comedy, the hardest to fall — are Benedick and Beatrice (Nick Sandys and Melissa Carlson) who engage in a long-standing feud expressed as a fusillade of zingers — “paper bullets of the brain” as Benedick terms them. Well, of course everything works out satisfactorily, though you have to wonder about Leonato’s dire prediction that, “if they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad.” May be.
First Folio puts on a Shakespeare play each summer outdoors on the grounds of the Peabody Estate in Oak Brook, IL. We’ve been to three of them — The Tempest, the best Richard III that I ever hope to see, and now Much Ado — and loved each one more than the last. Too bad we won’t be around Chicago to watch the company grow. If you live in the area and you like theater at all, do yourself a favor and take our places on the lawn.