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Much Ado about Much Ado: Shakespeare Under the Stars in Morris Township

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Don’t be fooled by the title.

A lot of noise for nothingplaying away this month at Saint Elizabeth University in Morris Township is something.

Lots of things, really.

As with all Shakespeare, this romantic comedy can be enjoyed on many levels.

On the surface, it’s a frothy adventure, an Elizabethan sitcom with a pair of lovers who overcome colossal chicanery and epic misunderstandings to reach (hopefully) Happily Ever After.

Michael Stewart Allen, Christopher Zou and Henry Silberstein. Photo by Sarah Haley

Very funny moments are ensured by a gang of nerdy cops led by Dogberry, a master of malaprops brilliantly played by Michael StewartAllena veteran of this New Jersey Shakespeare Theater company.

The production even undermines laughs at the location of the Greek Amphitheater, in the flight path of Morristown Airport.

Joking aside, A lot of noise questions about relationships and the recipe for true love.

The young nobleman Claudio (Christian Frost) becomes enraptured by beauty and hero status (Fionna Robberson), and decides to marry the young girl without bothering to get to know her first.

With no bonds of trust, Claudio is easily duped by scoundrels who smear Hero’s virtue, with near disastrous consequences.

Benjamin Eakeley and Jesmille Darbouze. Photo by Sarah Haley

Shakespeare contrasts this with Benedick and Beatrice, prototypes of Sam and Diana centuries later in Cheers.

Benedick and Beatrice – famous performed by Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in the 1993 film – insist that they are not the type to get married. Certainly not with each other.

At Jesmille Darbouze fiery Beatrice delights in speaking ill of Benedick, a soldier with whom she has more than just a passing acquaintance. This only confirms Benedick’s belief in celibacy, blusteringly conveyed by the dashing Benjamin Eakeley.

But their jousting belies a passion they realize thanks to tricks hatched by go-between friends.

A common cause – to restore Hero’s honor – cements the bond they had, unknowingly, forged all along.

Benedict and Beatrice. Claudio and Hero. Which couple has the best shot at marital bliss?

Carolyne Leys, Fiona Robberson, Ellie Gossage, Jesmille Darbouze and Raphael Nash Thompson. Photo by Sarah Haley

So there is this.

This embodiment of A lot of noise for nothing can also be enjoyed as a party.

A celebration of summer, a chance to make memories on a starry night, to warm yourself in the heart of winter.

And 60 years of memories – including 20 summers outdoors – of New Jersey’s Shakespeare Theater, a star in our cultural firmament shining bright again after the pandemic cloud.

And from a beginning. Eleanor Holdridge, who has directed two dozen Shakespeare plays, leads this 23-member cast in its first STNJ appearance.

A lot of noise for nothing?

Who knew a double wedding cake could have so many layers.

A lot of noise for nothing by William Shakespeare, directed by Eleanor Holdridge, is presented by the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey through July 31, 2022, at Saint Elizabeth’s University Greek Amphitheater, 2 Convent Road, Morris Township. Tickets: $30 to $45; 17 and under, free; 973-408-5600.