What Happened While Hero Was Dead: A Comedic Tragedy

*This production is rated “R” and is for mature audiences only (age 17+); contains explicit sexual content and adult themes.

Oregon Center for The Arts presents What Happened While Hero Was Dead written by Meghan Brown, directed by Holly L. Derr, and stage managed by Aimeè Le Roi. The cast features many SOU students including Aleeyah Enriquez as Hero, the dead girl; Jennie Babisch as Beatrice, Hero’s cousin; Nicole Villavicencio as Margaret, Hero’s maid and eventually friend; Jack Loeprich as Benedick; Max Laycock as Don Leonato, Hero’s father; Aiden Jenkins as Borachio/Chorus; Reilly J. O’Donnell as Claudio/Chorus; Asa Warnock as Don Pedro/Chorus; Corrine Maddox as the Friar/Chorus; Liam Jones, Meredith Cook, and Samuel Hunker as other members of the chorus; Julia Gibbs, Georgia Black, Connor Lomeli and Grant Halverson as understudies. 

What Happened While Hero was Dead is a refocused telling of Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. Unlike the original, Hero is the focus of the story as she fights to reclaim her reputation and dignity. 

On her wedding day, her soon-to-be-husband exposes her for being ‘impure’ causing Hero to pass out and ‘die’. Most of the other characters think she is dead – “Dead of shame,” as she says – but Beatrice, Margaret, and Benedick try in their own ways to help Hero. Clever writing from Meghan Brown and impressive, emotional acting from the cast take audiences on a journey. This journey is at moments painful, at other moments hilarious, and through it all, unforgettable. Hero transforms from a naive, fluttery girl into a wise, experienced woman right before your eyes. (Literally, you see the whole thing.)  

“The play is a reversal of expectations and challenges the supposed comedy laid out by Shakespeare’s original work to comment on modern femininity, and sexuality. It accomplishes this with well-choreographed scenes, one of which is known as the sex ballet. While humorous, it is not without its somber moments that beg the audience to reflect upon the unspoken expectations we place upon each other,” said one audience member.  

The sex ballet that they speak of was choreographed by Brianna Gowland, Intimacy Coordinator. The sex ballet has a wonderful soundtrack mixed by Zack Biegel, each song communicating the spirit of each of Hero’s encounters and perfectly complemented by lighting design by Mike Stanfill. The sex ballet is one of the most unforgettable scenes of the show. Hero decides to take her death as an opportunity to do whatever brings her pleasure. She dons a mask and invites people into her hiding place. The result is sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad, and other times wildly uncomfortable. 

Hero’s journey is not an easy one. She struggles and hurts and finds herself in situations she never thought imaginable. Aleeyah Enriques does a wonderful job of showing how Hero grows as a character and person. Subtle and overt characterizations make the audience feel Hero’s development and see it. Nicole Villavicencio’s quiet sadness undercuts the idea that this is a comedy and breaks the hearts of the audience. Jack Loeprich balances the sadness with Benedick’s humor and bravado while letting the issues he faces still shine. Jennie Babisch provides a witty and conflicted Margaret who keeps the audience on their toes. Together they tell the story that was in the background all along. The play had an hour and 45-minute run time plus a 15-minute intermission.

Leave a Reply