I was fortunate enough to be able to view Shakespeare, staged live, recently. I traveled to Fort Findlay Playhouse (FFP) in Flag City (Findlay, Ohio), to see “Much Ado About Nothing”, one of the great Bard’s comedies. It was a most enjoyable evening.

On the whole, community theaters are loathe to produce Shakespeare. First, it is not easy to do. At least, not-easy-to-do well. The language Shakespeare has invented/used is poetic, roundabout, and difficult for the modern ear. It has no contractions, no f-bombs, no present-day mannerisms. You must listen, and listen quickly.

Third, the wishes of the community theaters’ constituency must be honored. The audience who wishes to see this type of play is shrinking, as those of us who were actually exposed to this in school, are dying off, or are no longer able to attend. The modern generation, if they want Shakespeare at all, wants to see their favorite stars do this on screen.

So, there are good reasons why local amateurs do not produce these dated masterpieces. But FFP has dared to try this, and for that, they deserve a raked stage full of credit. A director with credentials for Shakespearean theater was hired. David Hartwig, PhD. in Shakespeare Performance, and former Executive Director of the Notre Dame Festival, brought a wealth of experience, to this effort, and it showed. The dialogue was crisp and moved along at a rapid pace, in most instances, and the actors incorporated gestures and pantomime to help the audience comprehend. Their demeanor showed purpose. The set, designed by producer John Garner, was simple, pleasant, and serviceable.

The story, that follows two sets of lovers, who are slowly brought together toward marriage at the play’s end, is funny and compelling. I heard a few “awww’s” as Benedick and Beatrice kiss at the end. Many characters, some for, some against these mergers, are brought on, in a dizzying parade of stated intentions. One must listen carefully, and cogitate at a rapid rate to keep up. But, all of this was accomplished, and the audience loved it.

I would mention the actors who impressed me, but the cast is an ensemble. Those who did a commendable job would be slighted if I mentioned others, and not them. So let me say, I thought everyone did very well. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

I have a couple of small things, as I usually do, that I must say. Some of the younger, less experienced actors, understood that pace and rapid-fire dialogue are important to Shakespeare, but, in their inexperience, were not able to spit the lines out and still make them understood. In some instances, lines were delivered, perhaps too rapidly, and sometimes the ends of the lines, perhaps due to lack of breath, were lost. This problem, at the community theatre level, is not only the domain of Shakespeare’s works! But, enunciation and lung support, in this kind of production, is key. I also have never quite been a fan of modern dress for Shakespeare. But my companion told me she had no problems with it whatsoever, and apparently those audience members I spoke to agreed with her. So I am in the minority.

In the end, these tiny issues will be evident in any amateur production of this type. No one goes to community theatre, expecting Broadway to break out. But sometimes pretty good stuff does. I found this to be an entirely enjoyable and refreshing look at this classic comedy, and I said so to the actors I met afterward.