In the age of COVID-19, Hub Theatre Company of Boston has a timely option. As producer-actress Lauren Elias revealed in a recent Zoom meeting, “We have acted to give everybody a respite from what’s happening now.” Fellow actors Arthur Waldstein and Jon Vallente and director Bryn Boice joined her to preview the company’s upcoming live online revival of “Much Ado About Nothing.” (Nov. 14-21).
Boice heartily embraced the challenges of a Zoom production. “I’m trying to get as much into this little area [the online rectangle] as I can,” he said. To that end, the seasoned Shakespeare stager (including “Julius Caesar” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) is calling on modern day costumes from Chelsea Karl, digital design from Justin Lahue, and sound design from Kyle Lampe.
“We’ve story boarded the whole show,” Elias noted. While the limitations of online performance mean “not being able to have total control,” Boice did look to the plus that “The actors have to be self-starters.”
Elias pointed to the independence and confidence of the heroine she plays. “There’s something so modern about Beatrice. She does not question her own actions.” Vellante spoke enthusiastically about portraying Benedick’s emotional awakening. Initially “It’s me [Benedick] against the world,” he observed. Later, the somewhat loner reasoned that “It’s OK to love other people.” Later, Vellante said, “I love the moment when he realizes that someone loves him and jumps for it.”
Waldstein differentiated between two clergy roles – his earlier Friar Laurence, who counsels Juliet, and his current Friar Francis, who advises Hero. Seeing the latter as “not too different from Friar Laurence,” he nevertheless feels that “Francis is much more focused on dealing with a specific relationship. He has rachmanus (Hebrew for compassion) for Hero.” Boice praised Jamie Hernandez, who plays Hero’s conflicted love, Claudio. “He has innocence in abundance,” she promised.
As for the director’s adaptation of the play, veteran Boston actor Waldstein gave it high marks. “There’s another form of pure. There’s a purity to the integration of it.” For her part, Boice submitted, “We changed very few words. I am a purist. I believe in iambic pentameter. It’s about 95 percent Shakespeare. It felt as though [the play] lent itself to the way we’re living now.”
Referring to the witty banter that Beatrice and Benedick volley at each other, she alerted, “We’ve added that they not only fight [verbally] but also Twitter away. Vellante noted the characters at the masked ball wear surgical masks.
With Francis becoming Rabbi Francis, Waldstein will be wearing a tallit and yarmulke. In this gender-bending production (as in Boice’s envelope-pushing all-female “Julius Caesar”), Hero’s parent will be Leonata (originally Leonato), played by Regine Vital. The director described her as a “helicopter parent.” Also look for sight gags and hiding gags.
Going forward, Elias speculated, Hub Theatre Company will present a winter play yet to be announced. She hoped that the group will return next summer to Club Café for its annual production there.
“Much Ado About Nothing,” Hub Theatre Company of Boston. Live online performances Nov. 14, 15, 20, 21. Pay what you can. Tickets at hubtheatreboston.org.