Rutgers Theater Company presents "Much Ado About Nothing" Feb. 3-18

Rutgers Theater Company takes William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to post-World War I Sicily in a production featuring live jazz music. Much Ado runs from Friday, February 3, through Saturday, February 18, 2012, at the Philip J. Levin Theater. Chris O’Connor directs.

The play’s engaging mix of playful barbs and keen yearning among two pairs of lovers is underscored by the music of 1920s jazz great Bix Biederbecke and others. A seven-piece jazz band of Mason Gross Music students will appear onstage, performing eight musical numbers.

O’Connor, the director, admits that he is more invested in what percolates beneath the witty banter of reluctant, middle-aged lovers Benedick and Beatrice than he is in the love-struck exchanges of Claudio and Hero.    

“Benedick and Beatrice’s relationship is earned. There’s so much depth to it,” O’Connor says. “My take on this play is very nonromantic. I understand the complexity and what one must fight for and what one must do to sustain a relationship. It’s more than looking at a person and deciding you want that person. Benedick and Beatrice go through a lot to get where they are.”

O’Connor says the decision to transport the 16th-century comedy to the years immediately following World War I made sense.

“The men in the play are war-weary and filled with longing,” O’Connor explains. “They want warmth, and they want love.” The music, which O’Connor says emanates “hopefulness and sadness,” functions in tandem with Much Ado’s tone.

Ultimately, O’Connor says, he believes that the play will resonate with audiences, just as it has for more than four centuries.

“Shakespeare’s plays are so universal,” he says. “They still touch us because of the timeless theme of the nature of love and how we get together."

Much Ado About Nothing runs from Friday, February 3 through Saturday, February 18, 2012, at the Philip J. Levin Theater. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors and only $15 for students with valid ID. The Philip J. Levin Theater is in the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George Street (between Route 18 and Ryders Lane), on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, and to learn more about the 2011-2012 Rutgers Theater Company season, visit or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 732-932-7511.

Media inquiries: Laurie Granieri, 848-932-5239