First Lines: Benedick Scott was on his way to freedom or profound failure or, if the usual order of things held up, both.
I heard about this a long time ago, but it’s kind of just been pushed to the back burner. Every time I saw it, I kind of shied away from it for one simple reason: I actually hate the 1920s culture. I hate the lawlessness, the disregard for Prohibition, the excess of the times. (Looking at you, Gatsby.) But…it’s a modernization of my favorite Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. So it was inevitable that I would try it eventually.
After getting kicked out of her boarding school, Beatrice Clark is taken in by her uncle on Long Island. But his home named Hey Nonny Nonny isn’t what it seems. In the basement is a speakeasy run by Uncle Leo and his daughter, Hero–but the speakeasy is struggling and may not survive the summer. Desperate to save it, Hero and Beatrice will do what it takes, but they’ll need some friends to help. There’s Prince, the poor man trying to prove his worth; John, Prince’s dark brother who may be part of the local mob; Benedick, the handsome trust-fund dreamer who wants to be a writer; and Maggie, the talented speakeasy singer. Despite the danger, love is in the air. And more than one couple is going to find themselves in love before the summer ends.
Honestly, this was brilliant. We see the story from multiple perspectives, namely Beatrice, Benedick, and Maggie (who, in the original play, is a maid named Margaret but here is a singer at the speakeasy). This allows us to see about 3-4 completely different stories happening at once. Not only is it about their circuitous route to love, but Beatrice, Benedick, and Maggie all have their own goals in life. (This is the upside of making this a “modern” story–marriage is not the end-goal for any of them.)
The setting and everything to do with the ’20s felt realistic without smacking us in the face with it. I felt like I could picture the house, the coastlines, etc. They use some ’20s slang without going overboard with it, which was a nice touch. But it was mostly the references to the world around them at the time that was the best. Lindbergh, women’s right to vote, etc. It felt more realistic because it was more tied to the world, even if it was something mentioned casually, it’s exactly what we would do.
Oh, and the banter! Beatrice and Benedick sling mud at each other like it’s a sport and I was not disappointed by the banter in the least. There were times reading it where I was flinching away from a barb one of them threw. It was awesome. So clever, so biting.
I also want to add that Dogberry and Verges are included in this in the best possible way. The fact that their characters in this are based on real people makes it even better. Those two…holy Moses, they’re ridiculous. I loved it.
This was great. It started off a little slow, but it wasn’t long before I was pulled into the story. It’s cleverly written, makes wonderful updates to the original play, and was just a good entertaining read. I am so hoping she updates more Shakespearean plays because she has a knack for that.
(P.S. If you don’t know if you’ll like this, I totally recommend watching Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. It’s modern as well and also fantastic. ‘K bye.)