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Communique: "Much Ado About Nothing" Set In Post-Civil War South By Christopher Marino

Christopher Marino (L) & Fred Grandy

Alchemical Theatre is Wilmington's newest theater company. It's presenting Much Ado About Nothing under the direction of founder Christopher Marino (who also plays villain Don John in the show). The show is set in the post-Civil War South. Leonato is played by Fred Grandy ("Gopher" from the Love Boat), who also came to town for Marino's production of Measure for Measure last year.

There are only 5 performances of the show at UNCW's Mainstage Theatre in the Cultural Arts Building: Saturday, 7/22 @ 7:30pm; Tuesday, 7/25 @ 2:00pm & 7:30pm; and Thursday, 7/27 &  Saturday, 7:29, both at 7:30pm. This production is part of the Lumina Festival of the Arts featuring performances, workshops, exhibits, and music through the end of July at UNCW.

Listen to our interview with Christopher Marino and Fred Grandy above, and see the transcript below. We'll hear more from Fred Grandy on Communique next week. 

Gina: New Shakespeare company Alchemical Theatre presents Much Ado About Nothing. Christopher Marino directs this production and plays the villain, Don John. Marino put a Southern spin on the play setting it in the post Civil War South. I spoke with Marino and actor Fred Grandy.


How do you look through the eyes of Shakespeare and put on the glasses of Robert E. Lee?

Christopher: A lot of it is trying to find parallel worlds. Right. And so you know we look at post-Civil War, Reconstruction era. What are the rules of the world? Well, it's a society that has a status structure. There are people that are part of the gentility, people that are not. It's very much the case in Shakespeare as well. The other thing that we know about Much Ado is that at the beginning of it, there is a war or a battle. The play doesn't really talk about what the battle was about but we do know that Don Pedro is on the winning side. Don John was on the losing side. And they're brothers.


So, a lot of the rules of Much Ado match up with post Civil War society. So Don John, Borachio and Conrad- Conrad and Borachio are actually returning in chains. And Pedro, Claudio, and Benedick are part of the Union soldiers that are coming to town. Don John is more of the profile of say a Bushwhacker. You know, the guy that was in the fields doing all the sort of raids that were not part of structured military. And so, his lament is: this is changing. You know, why am I sad? I'm sad because I live in a world now that I don't understand anymore. What we're doing at the play is to embrace it's extreme comedy.


Fred: Yes.


Christopher: The sort of Southern hook allows characters like Dogberry and Verges and the Watch to fall into a place where they make sense. I think Shakespeare wrote in dialect even though he's not prescriptively telling us they pronounce things differently. The cadences and rhythms of it are definitely country. And so what's great about that is, especially again the rules of Southern society, we already have a structure in place, we understand that there's a static structure. So when people talk differently, it means something in the south. If we did that in the north, they'd go, oh yeah they just they it did in Southern dialect.

Fred: But you know another thing and it's interesting, somebody asked me when we first started rehearsal, said “Well who's your prototype for Leonato.” And I said “Matlock.” And if you look at Dogberry and say, well that would be Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazzard and you can find these parallels that are surprisingly complementary with what Shakespeare was writing. That’s why I think this is a surprisingly easy fit. And to Chris's point, this is a funny show.


Chris: Yeah.


Fred: I mean this this is a comedy. There's there's some very serious stuff in it. But I think it's one of his funniest shows, don’t you?

Chris: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know it's got it's got broad comedy, it's got wit play, it's got some beautiful verse in it. And then it has room for you to figure out physical comedy. And it's it's perfect.

Gina: That was Christopher Marino and Fred Grandy there at the end. Much Ado About Nothing opens this Saturday at UNCW’s Main Stage theater. We'll hear more from Fred Grandy next week. You may remember him as “Gopher” from the Love Boat. He's heavily involved in Alchemical Theatre and he's playing Leonato in this production.