Even the biggest Shakespeare devotees probably haven't seen the Bard's work this up close and personal before.

Even the biggest Shakespeare devotees probably haven't seen the Bard's work this up close and personal before.

For the first time in its 29-year history of performances in Schiller Park, Actors' Theatre will perform a play in arena style, with the audience sitting on all four sides of the stage.

People who head to "Much Ado About Nothing" early to claim spots up front will get the sense of being drawn into the action.

"It gives the audience a better chance to observe what's going on in the play," explains John S. Kuhn, the play's director and artistic director of the acting company.

And there's a lot happening in the play. Deception, clashes between the sexes, accusations of infidelity - sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it? But the perennial favorite is actually a comedy, with a bickering older man and woman eliciting many of the laughs.

That squabbling pair, Benedick and Beatrice, is one of two couples at the heart of the play. The other is a young duo, Claudio and Hero, who fall in love only to have their happy world temporarily destroyed when Claudio falsely believes that Hero cheated on him. Hero's reputation is ruined, and she goes into hiding until her innocence is brought to light.

"There is much consternation about something that turns out to be about nothing," Kuhn says.

Even without the theater-in-the-round staging, Schiller Park is an ideal setting for a performance. Just lay out a blanket and unload the picnic basket to enjoy the free entertainment, or grab a few snacks at the concession stand.

"What makes Schiller so unique is that you can spread out and allow yourself to enjoy it in a comfortable way," Kuhn says. "There's something about being out under the stars in the open air that enhances the experience."