All New, All Shakespeare. Wait, What?

Much Ado About Love, a Romantic Comedy in Shakespeare’s Verse

The playwright, David Nanto, sent me this story about the premiere of his new play, a 1960’s romantic comedy written entirely in Shakespeare’s original verse. I appreciate that he kept it in Italy, why mess with the classics?

Despite the title, the plot seems lifted from Love’s Labours Lost :

Three friends arrive at a small hotel in Italy where they swear an oath to avoid women and focus on their studies. Soon two beautiful cousins arrive and when the owner of the hotel suggests that they all do a reading of a play to pass the long evenings, it isn’t long before the three men realize that they have fallen for the three women. But misunderstandings, shyness, and grief are almost insurmountable as they try to woo the girls of their dreams.

I appreciate the effort that goes into projects like this, though I wonder how much of it is a quality new product and how much is just that “novelty Shakespeare” bucket.  Remember Terminator the Second where they rewrote the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie using all Shakespeare verse? Or those interminable (ha, see what I did there?) Star Wars Shakespeare books?

I think it’s a very difficult line to dance around. I don’t want to spend the entire play not only saying to myself “Yup, recognize that, that’s from Much About About Nothing” and, worse, “Argh that is totally taken out of context from Hamlet! That’s not what that line is supposed to mean!” I think the T2 and Star Wars things get buzz because of the pop culture connection. But what happens in a case like Mr. Nanto’s where he’s truly created something original? How do you look past the “recognize the quote” game and evaluate/appreciate the play itself?

For their part (I say they because I assume this is not a one-man show) they’re playing to the Shakespeare enthusiasts, even going so far as to offer a “where is this quote from” quiz on their web page. For a real challenge try the video from dress rehearsal (on that same page) that asks you to count the references. I lost track very quickly.

Break a leg, Mr. Nanto!

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