much ado genesiusWith the warming weather comes the season of romance and with it, Genesius Guild and their amazing performance of the 400 year old romantic comedy, William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” under the stars in Rock Island’s Lincoln Park. Their outside theatre is both charming and comfortable. I attended their performance on July 23 and it was one of the greatest experiences of local culture I have ever had since moving to the Quad-Cities 23 years ago.

Romance is a thing some humans not only obsess over, but some say we have a requirement to partake in. Love is the one true magic in the universe. With its healing powers and ability to make all things new, it amplifies any story. This play exposes that elegantly. When you couple love with a group of spirited young people, it opens the door for a chaotic dance of love, laughter, deceit and sadness. The script delivers all of these traits in full force. The Genesius Guild embodies it in excellent form.

The stage was set fittingly with simply some wooden stools and a beautiful backdrop of painted trees that blended awesomely with the real trees surrounding us. And as the actors took the stage, the costumes brought to life the words that flew so easily from their smiling mouths.

Beatrice, played by Lis Athas, was bold and lovely. She spoke clearly and steadily as she strode with confidence across the stage. Laughter echoed throughout the park as Benedick, played by Jeremy Mahr, and Beatrice went back and forth from the very start. I was taken aback by the skills of this player portraying Benedick. I was blown away every time these two would take the stage.

The entire guild was incredibly talented and skilled at falling together when things got a little out of character! At one point, it was a happy accident that the thunder should boom just as a character made mention of “How still this evening is.” This delightful coincidence was welcomed by a real and deserved burst of joy from the audience as we all sat in wait for the looming storm that was moving slowly across the sky. After which, a few raindrops did come, but the show must go on and this guild did indeed satisfy that in so many ways.

For the time that flew by as the captivated audience looked on, there were instances where there was laughter and even a few moments of silence that are worth mentioning. Free laughs were easily awarded to guards, men, and the maids. The feelings of scorn against the evil brother as he made his mark on the hearts of the people with his devious plot to destroy the wedding of Hero, sweetly shown by Chelsae Ward and Count Claudio, who lives his real life as Travis Meier. In the end, love prevails.

If you wish to see this play and laugh as we did, Genesius Guild will be playing it once again July 30-31 at 8 p.m. on the stage at Lincoln Park. Admission is free and this show is well, well worth your time.

Amanda Jo Payne read her first novel by age 5 and began writing plays and poetry at age 11, when she received her first typewriter from her mother. A love for putting words together pushed her into higher education and she obtained her Board of Trustees BA from Western Illinois University in 2008. As a mother of three and a grandmother of four, she spends most of her time reading and taking care of her family.