The players take the stage. All of sudden a voice comes over the loudspeaker announcing the obligatory “Turn off your cells, no photography …” The actors looked confused. “Where is that voice coming from?” they seem to be asking themselves as they look up and down trying to locate the origin of the disembodied voice. We are, after all, in Sicily in the 1600s.
So begins this staging of Much Ado About Nothing, this season’s first production of Shakespeare in the Park. (The voice on the loudspeaker reminding the audience that this is the people’s theater got a huge round of applause.) The Public’s annual “gift” of free theater at the lovely Delacorte Theater in Central Park has always been one of my favorite summer outings. The setting always seems charmed and the actors seem to love performing in this open air venue.
Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s comedies of warring couples, phony deaths, misinterpretation and, somehow, all’s well that ends well (that’s another story). If the repartee between Benedick and Beatrice was performed with real swords, someone would definitely draw blood. You have to concentrate on the volley of insults lobbed back and forth. There are also saucy maids, dastardly counts and a constable who mangles the English language to keep our attention heightened.
Three performers stood out for me on the evening I saw the show. Hamish Linklater, who I also thoroughly enjoyed in last year’s Comedy of Errors, was a delight as Benedick. He struck the right notes as a bachelor who was disdainful of marriage who morphs into a lovestruck suitor who wins the lady’s hand. John Glover plays Leonato, the governor of the town where the play takes place, and father to Hero and uncle to Beatrice. While he initially believes the accusations against his daughter, he comes to her defense with fierce love when he discovers the truth and also has a hand in bringing his niece to her marriage vows. And John Pankow as Dogberry, the constable, brought great glee to his malapropisms.
If you have never been to a performance of Shakespeare in the Park, get thee to a nunnery. (Sorry, that’s even another story.) Get to the Delacorte Theater and enjoy some enchanted evening. AFW
Much Ado About Nothing
Through July 6th
Tickets either through donation to The Public, waiting on line at the Delacorte, or virtual lottery.