Broken promises are central to two productions on local stages this weekend.
At Owens Community College, Much Ado About Nothing opens tonight in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.
Director Cynthia Stroud has shifted the action of the Shakespearean comedy, originally set in the 1600s, to the 1930s to make costuming easier and to add a touch of familiarity to the surroundings for those put off by period pieces.
"Much Ado" concerns a company of soldiers under the command of Don Pedro, who has defeated his illegitimate half-brother, Don John, in battle, forcing a prickly peace between them. Among Don Pedro's company are Benedick and young Claudio, who have distinguished themselves in battle.
On their way home, they are invited to enjoy the hospitality of Leonato, the governor of Messina, Italy, whose household includes Leonato's lovely young daughter, Hero, and his plain-speaking niece, Beatrice, who apparently has met Benedick before, for the pair immediately begin bickering.
Claudio falls in love with Hero and seeks Don Pedro's help in wooing her, which he does, successfully. The young sweethearts are so happy that they decide to make Beatrice and Benedick realize that they love each other.
But love does not run smoothly. The wicked Don John, who is seething with resentment, decides to destroy Claudio, of whom he is jealous, and Don Pedro, who supports the match, by making Claudio believe that Hero has been unfaithful. Claudio spurns his former sweetheart, and it seems as if Don John will win.
Stroud, an adjunct faculty member at Owens, said she has enjoyed a huge amount of support for the production.
"This is the only show we're doing this season, so I have all the resources of the department available to me. The students are really chomping at the bit to do something, and the audition [for the show] was the largest since the program began."
Since one of Owens' aims is to be part of the community, the audition was open to nonstudents as well. The cast is about two-thirds Owens students and one-third from the community.
Along with the setting, Stroud also adapted some of the characters. In most plays of the period, she said, the bulk of the characters are male, but modern casts are a more equal mix of male and female. Thus, Stroud said when a character's gender didn't matter, she altered it to suit her needs.
"What was surprising was that having Shakespeare's words coming out of the mouth of a woman gave them a fascinating dynamic," she said.
The large cast includes Kevin Hall and Rebecca Vail as Claudio and Hero; Sarah Stephens and Timothy Kruse as Beatrice and Benedick; Zac Gilley as Leonato; and Chad-Michael Simon and Michael Johnson as, respectively, Don Pedro and Don John.
Shakespeare wrote for adults, and there are displays of anger, affection, and intrigue in Much Ado about Nothing. "We've heightened the physical comedy and added some dancing, so I think older elementary school students could enjoy the production," Stroud says.
"Much Ado About Nothing" opens tonight and runs through April 24 in the Mainstage Theater of Owens Community College's Center for Fine and Performing Arts, 30335 Oregon Rd., Perrysburg. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12 for the public and $10 for students. Information: 567-661-2787.
The Children's Theatre Workshop continues its 50th anniversary season with a production of The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Adapted by Madge Miller from Robert Browning's 1888 story based on a German legend, the production features youngsters ages 4 to 15 in the cast and ages 13-17 in the crew.
"This is a show run by young people," producer Ann Flagg says. Adults help with the sets, sound, and lighting and during rehearsals, but once opening day arrives, all the responsibility is turned over to the youngsters.
In the story, the town of Hamelin is overrun by rats. At their wits end, the townsfolk persuade the mayor to hire a piper, who says he can get rid of the vermin by playing his hypnotic music and leading them to their destruction. When he does, the mayor refuses to pay the piper's rather large fee, so the piper takes his revenge by playing his music and stealing the town's children.
This is where the traditional tale ends, but Miller's adaptation has the piper returning the children.
"We gear our plays to little kids, and they like happy endings," Flagg says.
Two casts of about 35 each will alternate roles in the three productions.
"The Pied Piper of Hamelin" is scheduled at 1 and 3:30 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday in the Lois M. Nelson Theatre for the Performing Arts in the Collingwood Arts Center, 2413 Collingwood Blvd. Tickets at the door are $6 for adults and $4 for students and seniors.
- Nanciann Cherry