Beatrice and Benedick are bickering again on the Civic Center's Freede Little Theatre stage.
Local actor Lane Fields, playing the verbose bachelor Benedick, rolls his eyes as he hears sharp-tongued singleton Beatrice, portrayed by Broadway leading lady and Oklahoma City native Stacey Logan, approach with an insult at the ready. He dubs her “my dear Lady Disdain”; she parries that “courtesy itself must convert to disdain if you come in her presence.”
Ouch. It must be love.
Just in time for Valentine's Day, Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre is staging one of William Shakespeare's most romantic comedies, “Much Ado About Nothing.” But theatergoers who take in the production, opening Friday, won't be the only ones feeling the love: CityRep is joining professional companies worldwide in celebrating The Bard's 450th birthday.
Celebrating The Bard
Not only is “Much Ado” the first Shakespearean work CityRep has performed in its 12-year history, Donald Jordan, the company's founding artistic director, also thinks it is the first professional Actors' Equity union production of any Shakespeare play in Oklahoma in more than 40 years.
“Our community, we're very fortunate that we're very well represented in Shakespeare. We have several educational institutions ... We have several good community theaters that also do Shakespeare very well. And Shakespeare, while he is a talented guy, don't get me wrong, he hasn't written anything new in awhile,” Jordan said with a grin.
While CityRep typically focuses on bringing contemporary works, as well as some classic plays, to OKC, the company wanted to take part in the global commemoration of The Bard's birth. Dallas-based directorRene Moreno, the artistic associate at Dallas Shakespeare, is helming the Oklahoma City production of his all-time favorite play.
Although it maintains most of Shakespeare's finely crafted language, CityRep's “Much Ado” takes place in Guthrie at the turn of the 20th century and features the music of Scott Joplin and John Philip Sousa. The Bard penned the rom-com at the turn of the 17th century and set it on the island of Sicily.
“Don and I were interested in bringing an Oklahoma connection to it,” said Moreno, one of CityRep's affiliated artists whose credits include Broadway's original cast of “Amadeus” and New York Shakespeare in the Park.
“We're not doing literal history or anything like that, but just a flavor. So we're right before statehood in the early 1900s, in Guthrie, which was then the capital of the Oklahoma Territory.”
Much ado about students
During Saturday's technical rehearsals, Logan and Fields exchanged rapid-fire barbs, then broke into grins when her attempt at defiantly snapping shut a book ended with a fumble. The actors are reuniting after co-starring in CityRep's 2011 state premiere of “Next to Normal,” and the trust they've built is helping Logan through her first Shakespearean production.