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South County High School in Lorton, Virginia, presented “Much Ado About Nothing” to the Cappies Critics on November 17, 2023. Here are the top two Cappies Critic reviews.

Ava Carter

Langley High School


Shakespeare met 1970s disco in South County High School's production of "Much Ado About Nothing." Featuring two intertwined love stories fueled by miscommunication, the actors delivered stunning performances while the costumes and set design remained authentic to the decade.


First performed in 1598 in England, the play follows the love story of Hero and her suitor Claudio, while Hero's cousin, Beatrice, and the constant thorn in her side, Benedick, are tricked into falling in love with one another. Amidst the interference of friends and family members, will the two couples be able to untangle the miscommunication and end up married, or is their love story not meant to be?


Led by the engaging Parker Bryant (Benedick) and vivacious Caprice Aspland (Beatrice) the pair’s bold and deliberate choices brought comedy and resistance to the production. Bryant’s relatable and comedic performance added believability and excitement to the show. Furthermore, Bryant broke the fourth wall with entertaining audience interaction that conveyed joviality and cheerfulness to the production. In addition, Caprice Aspland’s uptight yet sassy character greatly contrasted with Bryant’s lighthearted one. This differentiation brought delightful resistance to their relationship. Aspland's silent performance was just as comedic as her speech. One highlight was a humorous action sequence that kept audience members laughing throughout.


Further, notable supporting actors include Zach Smith (Borachio) and Noah Pflugrath (Don John). Through Borachio’s drunken daze, Smith lit up the stage with his comedic and booming persona. Additionally, Pflugrath commanded attention through his multiple screaming fits and battles with a chair. His perfectly timed humor and physicality were a standout in every scene. Moreover, the DJs (Amelia Johnson, Anaya Brodie, Janelle Lockett) consistently reacted and stayed in character in the background of every scene. Their commitment transported the audience to the 70s with fluid dance moves and cooperation with one another.


However, the talented cast was only half of this delightful production. The costuming and set design teams shined like a disco ball. South County’s costume team (Dexter Burris, Shika Kumar, Rebecca Stroh, and Sophia Uriostegui) excelled in their 70s fashion talents. Shiny white boots, floral flared pants, and tie-dye were all standouts. Additionally, each character’s costume directly reflected their personality and mood. Complementary color schemes also played a role, with Beatrice’s orange dress directly matching Benedick’s orange floral shirt. The set design of the show (Gabe Hicks) also stood out with clean painting, clever leveling, and detailed decoration. The set perfectly reflected a 70s disco club with its dark purple hues and colorful, clean stripes. On the walls of the club were old-fashioned vinyls and 70s band posters that, while only being in the background, added authenticity to the show. The set’s levels also allowed character hierarchy to be portrayed, as well as giving actors ample space to experiment. In addition, Shakespearean language may pose a challenge for some high school students, but South County’s assistant directing team tackled it with ease. Assistant directors Lauren Gear, Mallory Meier, and William Waugh worked with actors to understand the deeper meaning behind Shakespeare's writing and characters. All their hard work paid off, with the cast delivering outstanding performances that conveyed the intended emotions and lessons of Shakespeare's work.


Ultimately, South County’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” was certainly a show to remember. South County taught the audience valuable lessons about communication and relationships that many will treasure long after leaving the auditorium. Complete with superb performances and equally magnificent technical areas, this funky take on a Shakespearean classic was certainly groovy!

Jacqueline Gauthier

Langley High School


Love meets comedy, meets Shakespeare, meets… disco? In the newest South County High School production, characters kiss behind a vinyl record, lie under the pretense of a masked dance, and dramatically interrupt weddings in the background of a club in the 1970’s.


Much Ado About Nothing, originally written and performed in 1598 by the one and only William Shakespeare, is about two couples. One, the constantly arguing Beatrice, (Caprice Aspland) the daughter of the club owner and Benedick (Parker Bryant), and the seemingly perfect Claudio (Javier Quiroz-Rubi) and Hero (Aeryn Dahm). The conflict is set up when pining, goofy Claudio is given angelic Hero’s hand in marriage and the two are set to be married the next day, with schemers lying in wait to ruin the wedding. Beatrice and Benedick respectively hear their friends and family loudly and pointedly gossip about the other being madly in love with them, of which they are delighted to be the object of, and both resolve to declare their love. However, instead of being set in the Italian city of Messina in the 16th century, it is set in an American club in the 1970s. Very little of the dialogue is changed, meaning almost all the seamless blending of the setting was done through brilliant acting choices and excellent tech work.


South County’s production nailed the delicate balancing act of these two wildly contrasting halves, making sure that the emotional through-line of the show was clear under all of the heavy dialogue and flashing lights.


The absolute standout from the show, of course, was Parker Bryant as Benedick. Slinking, bouncing, full of energy and humor, Bryant moved through the set as if born there, and in particular brought a modern bachelor energy to his interactions with his love interest, Beatrice, and his best friend, Claudio. Even in the second half, where the play’s tone shifted to drama, his stark change in attitude was all the more striking for the outright goofiness he oozed earlier in the show. For Beatrice herself, Caprice Aspland’s quick wit and self-confidence shone through despite the dense dialogue, and made sure the audience understood exactly what she was saying.


Throughout the performance, though, other supporting characters had more than their chance to shine. Noah Pflugrath memorably made his introduction as Don John by running across the stage screaming and did not fall from the audience’s memory after that. Bringing a unique “dude-bro” energy to the role, his genuine sincerity and humor never failed to strike the hilarious juxtaposition between his words (full Shakespearean language) and what he meant. However, he was not the only actor of note - the second-act introduction of Natalie Beasley as Dogberry reinvigorated the production with her immense energy and massive grin.


But the show’s unique take on the classic Shakespeare would fall flat if it weren’t for the thoughtful and creative technical teams. The crisp and static set carefully constructed and painted by Andrew Beasley, Natalie Beasley, Adrian Jin, and Matthew Walsh provided the core of the change in setting, colorful and just enough detail for the actors to live in while also not distracting from the action onstage. Phil Gigrich, Leah Lewis, and Natalie Mitchell also found that balance in the show’s lighting, expertly bouncing between dancing rainbow disco lights during a knock-out dance sequence and a soft pink light as Benedick confessed his love.


It’s safe to say that there won’t ever be a production like South County’s Much Ado About Nothing ever again, and it stands as one of the most creative interpretations of Shakespeare’s work yet.


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