Blake High School Stage Company's weekend production of William Shakespeare's famous comedy "Much Ado About Nothing" evoked Renaissance Messina, Italy, through an enthusiastic group of actors, an impressive set and fabulous costumes.

"Much Ado About Nothing" centers around the efforts of Don Pedro (Zak Marsh) and his companions to bring about a match between the unwilling Beatrice (Alyssa Manzanero) and Benedick (Gil Hasty). A subplot involves Benedick's friend and fellow soldier Claudio (Adam Brooks), who falls in love with Hero (Erica Feldman), the daughter of Signior Leonato (Johnny Weissgerber), at whose villa they are visiting.

Manzanero delivered a witty, sarcastic and catty portrayal of Beatrice. Hasty was animated and funny as the confused Benedick. Brooks's understated performance stood out as one of the strongest in the show. Weissgerber was convincing as the elderly Leonato, governor of Messina.

The company effectively made the Shakespearean language come alive, and the play easy to follow. In addition, the actors' use of the aisles as an extension of the stage was a creative way to involve the audience.

One of the most moving scenes was the mock funeral of Hero, set up to trick Claudio into taking her back, after his accusations of betrayal at their wedding. The ensemble entered through the front doors of the auditorium carrying candles while a casket was brought onstage. Two minstrels (Justin Pereira singing and Richard Shapiro on the guitar) sang a lovely song. The scene was powerful and memorable.

The technical design received as much attention as the acting. Throughout the play, romantic music set an appropriate tone. Each character, from the leads to the ensemble, wore beautiful and unique costumes. Several dances throughout the play added to the merry mood. The set was magnificent and included a fountain with a whimsical fish, an arbor, balconies, stairs and a grandly designed door.

Blake's production of "Much Ado About Nothing" successfully entertained the audience. The cast and technicians brought this classic romantic comedy to life in an impressive production that left no detail untouched by their artistry.

Lila Becker

Bethesda-Chevy Chase

High School

Alyssa Manzanero is a witty Beatrice in Blake High School's "Much Ado About Nothing."