They say nothing is new under the sun, but Shakespeare by the Sea brings a unique play experience to Southern California. We have concerts, movies or camping in the park, but not consistently Shakespeare that travels to a recreational city park year after year.
Amy Louise Sebelius, Director of Much Ado About Nothing delivers a well cast, smooth production of laughs. There is that tense moment where Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio and actors Kimberly Patterson and David Jay Barry take those characters seriously, but the audience laughs at a moment in Beatrice and Benedicks’ relationship that turns from flirtatious to trialing.
Jerrod Popham (Claudio), making his LA debut with SBTS, is a serious Claudio; he cries on demand for his sweet Hero, played by the beautiful blond Holly Long. The audience goes wild as Popham and Long kiss and also when the sassy Kimberly Patterson (Beatrice) and light-hearted David Jay Barry (Benedick) kiss. Both are fluid with their lines and are funny and enjoyable together with their chemistry. Funny impromptu occurs when a baby walks up to the stage and Drew Shirley (Dogberry) says, “Hello, baby,” in a medium tone of voice then continues on. At the end of the scene Shirley takes the bench out from under the blind man Verges (Cylan Brown), who remains seated with legs crossed, staring beyond the audience asking, “Where’s the baby?”
The actors are surrounded by a castle with an English garden courtyard with trellises filled with pink roses. Below is canvas professionally painted to look like an Old World stone wall and potted plants. The stage is very versatile, being that the base is used in every play and then transformed just like at a black box theatre, but travels frequently. Aaron Jackson, Scenic Designer, will be a Design Producer for ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition this fall.
Also, with Hollywood connections is Valerie Wright-Blair, Costume Designer, who has designed gowns for clients and celebrities for the Academy and Emmy Awards. For this production of Much Ado she uses taffeta for the princess style dresses in solid colors of lavender, orange-yellow, green and iridescent blue with lace bodices. The soldiers wear red, white striped and blue coats that button on one side, with black pants and boots.
Shakespeare by the Sea is connected to Little Fish Theatre in downtown San Pedro where Lisa Coffi manages and produces the year round theatre that presents new, classic and contemporary plays. The festival allows Coffi to offer a completely different experience to an array of people with the help of Festival Producer, Sara Adelman. This year the Shakespeare festival team is producing The Tragedy of King Lear and Much Ado About Nothing. The shows will be in parks from Laguna Niguel to Beverly Hills and return to Point Fermin Park in San Pedro for a closing candlelight ceremony at the Grand Finale performance weekend for both plays.
People are encouraged to come with a blanket, low back chair and dinner for these free events, but bring some money for other fun activities like the raffle and shopping to help support live theatre. Cozy fleece blankets and sweatshirts with the Shakespeare by the Sea logo can be purchased on those nights that turn chilly by the sea. For more complete information and photos visit www.shakespearebythesea.org.