Much Ado about Zooming: Hub Theatre Company takes on Shakespeare

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Lauren Elias

The Hub Theatre Company of Boston returned to the (virtual) stage this fall with Shakespeare’s timeless comedy “Much Ado About Nothing,” directed and adapted by Bryn Boice.

The Hub Theatre Company of Boston took on a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado About Nothing” this past weekend, giving viewers the chance to get some artistic culture from the comfort of their couches. 

The theatre company, which has been in Boston for eight seasons, is a “pay what you can” theatre in the words of co-founder and actor Lauren Elias. 

Elias came up with the idea when she bought tickets to a show in Boston, noting the prices were incredibly high. The lowest donation needed to see a play at The Hub is $1.

This adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing” was live streamed on YouTube with the actors in their own homes and viewers being unable to see one another. 

“All the years of training, of experience, go right out the window,” Elias said about virtual theatre. “The first thing they teach you in any acting class is about acting and reacting and now, you just have to trust your scene partner will have your back.”

One Suffolk University alumnus, Kelsey Whipple, was the stage manager of the play. 

“Kelsey figured out the program we use to show the play,” Elias said. “We really couldn’t have done this without her.”

The show consisted of 12 local actors and could be streamed from your own living room. (Ashley Fairchild)

Another current Suffolk student, Justin Lahue, was the digital designer of the production. He also helped make the play a COVID friendly production. 

The company decided to put on this play, despite the difficulties incurred by COVID-19. It was not only a way to bring art into the homes of those watching but to create jobs in a time when artists, in particular, are struggling. 

“Creating jobs in this climate, especially for this line of work, is so important right now,” Elias said 

The show, directed by Bryn Boice, a well-known Boston-based director, had a notably diverse cast. They threw out gender confinements for roles and had an impressive mix of ages on screen. They also only used actors and crew from the Boston area, keeping it local. 

The play itself was done in the format of multiple Zoom meetings and breakout rooms. The actors performed in their own homes wore their own costumes and were their own set designers as well as prop masters. 

The actors did extremely well with what they had, as they embodied their roles and acted well off of each other even though they were physically separate. 

As the story developed, the lack of proximity did hinder the performance. It is difficult to believe four separate people would fall madly in love through Zoom, however, that might be the new norm in 2020. 

While the play continued, the story unfolded in an upward trajectory. Many actors played multiple parts and did so very well. The entire cast pulled the story together in a way that was interesting, funny and maintained the well-known Shakespearean story. 

The side characters, such as Don John, played by Michael John Ciszewski, and Leonata, played by Regine Vital absolutely stole the show. Vital drew the audience in with every word, truly embracing the role and captivating the audience. Ciszewski was devious, every scene was hilarious and intriguing when they were on the screen. 

The director did make a few changes, trying to inject some more modern references into the play. While some performers enhanced the story to make the Zoom-like quality of the play a smoother transition, the references to COVID-19 were misplaced. In the middle of a pandemic, the viewing of art should be to take the mind away from the current situation, and the mask jokes, quarantine references and sporadic integration were a well-intentioned miss.  

Overall, the performance was a gift during a time when access to things like plays, museums and art, in general, is so limited. The cast did a phenomenal job with current circumstances and when the theatre opens again for in person shows, they are a company not to be missed.

Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyFairchi14.