By Victoria L. Dammer

William Shakespeare wrote the comedy Much Ado About Nothing over 400 years ago and has remained the same throughout the centuries. But thanks to Thomas G. Waites, this modern version presented at the Gene Frankel Theater is so enticing to experience I’m inclined to call it Much Ado About Something, and so much more.

Waites’ production takes place in the 1940s, when soldiers return from war, and so begins the laughter, secrets, and deceptiveness presented throughout the story. Included are two romantic pairings of lovers, intertwined with intrigue, action, and soft piano keyboard music, and this present-day performance is terrific. Waites’ brilliant direction and skill in teaching his actors preserve the perfections of Shakespeare’s language, while the plot follows the original story line.

The seductive Beatrice (Kaitlyn Mitchell) is witty, a goodhearted jokester who teases everyone around her, yet saves her intense mockery for Benedick (Jakob Minevich), a gentleman soldier well equipped to return her jeering. Benedick proudly boasts he will never marry, and states his distrust of every woman, especially Beatrice. How little he knows of his fate with this alluring beauty.

Claudio (Dillon John Collins), who professes he wishes to rekindle his feelings with Hero (Jordan Elizabeth Gelber) accompanies Benedick, hoping to marry her. They plan a masquerade ball, where other characters engage in plotting and chaos ensues, but when the dust settles, Claudio is promised Hero’s hand in marriage. Beatrice and Benedick publicly profess their love for one another through a simple twist of fate. But for Claudio and Hero, a happy ending is not always the case in a Shakespeare comedy, or is it? You need to follow the plot closely; in this review, the ending won’t be divulged.

Waites was in the audience and appeared gleeful like a child while watching his masterpiece unfold. He remarked how proud he was of the actors who were onstage, and all part of his acting studio at this site. The production was funded with the help of Kelsey Grammer, whom Waites said he befriended while they both attended Juilliard.

“We need some culture, in these times of strife,” Waites said. “There are some great young actors in this group, actors who work hard and put in their time. The play has been extended because of the demand for tickets.”

Let’s celebrate the fact that Grammer and Waites continue to support The Bard and bring to the stage such a fine production as the 2024 production of Much Ado About Nothing. Don’t miss it.

Much Ado About Nothing, written by William Shakespeare and presented by Kelsey Grammer and Faith American Brewing Company at the Gene Frankel Theater. Directed by Thomas G. Waites. Starring Jakob Minevich, Kaitlyn Mitchell, Dillon John Collins, Jordan Elizabeth Gelber, Jacque Coqueran, Surge, David Manganiello, Luis Guillen, Matt McGlade, Brandon Lima, Arnie Mazer, John Galligan, Jordan Allen Bell and Cedric Allen Hill. Press by Alton PR/Andrea Alton.

The show is running now through July 7th.