MUST SEE ENTERTAINMENT SUMMER 2019 – FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK – FROM ROMANTIC COMEDY TO POLITICAL ACTION

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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING A THOROUGHLY MODERN GOOD TIME IN CENTRAL PARK. THE COMPANY ROCKS! KENNY LEON DIRECTS ALL BLACK VERSION
Written by William Shakespeare  Directed by Kenny Leon  Photos by Joan Marcus

Much Ado….About Nothing? No, About Love
Free Shakespeare in the Park at The Delacorte Theatre
All Black Cast Romps and Raves through Marvelous Misadventures

By Lori Zelenko

The rustling you hear as the show is about to begin in Central Park is not impatient patrons fiddling with their programs. No it is the careless whisper of leafy branches settling in for the night. Birds nesting nearby, wings sheltering fledglings. Racoons debating if there’s time for a jaunt across the stage to size up snack opportunities from afar or maybe just to determine how to make a hasty exit after stealing a scene. Nature you see surrounds, supports, and involves all of us as we wait as hungrily as the audience did in Shakespeare’s day for the show to begin. And what a show it is! Much Ado About Nothing makes much ado about love…and hate which as a protesting military man’s placard says in a prequel to the action, HATE IS NOT A FAMILY VALUE. In this Shakespearean comedy love brings people together only to see them divided by hate…and with that realization, (spoiler alert), reunite them more in love than ever. For tickets, publictheater.org/register

Much Ado’s 2019 all black version is directed by Kenny Leon (two-time Tony Award winner for Broadway’s A Raisin In The Sun , making his Shakespeare in The Park debut). He keeps the comedy potent and so very relevant in this modern – set in 2020 – and musical approach. No cumbersome costumes here, all clothing is contemporary as are the struggles these characters face – women falsely accused and maligned by the cruel, conniving, self-righteous men in their live, fighting to overturn misperceptions and miscommunication. Look at it through the lens of #MeToo as Oskar Eustis the Artistic Director of The Public Theater suggests to get a grip on human behavior that’s not as evolved as we might want to think. For Beatrice and Benedict the sparring lovers at the heart of the action, “the question is not whether love will wound them,” Eustis observes, “but whether they can overcome their wounds and allow themselves to love.”

 

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kenny Leon with pictured here- the lovers challenged by hate but triumphed by love  – Jeremie Harris (Claudio) and Margaret Odette (Hero),

Danielle Brooks as Beatrice brings a roar of applause with her entrance, her fans love her from seven seasons as Taystee on Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.” Sassy and smart, she’s a “take no prisoners” kind of gal. Where men are concerned, you could say she’s a hard case. She’s niftily paired with Grantham Coleman as Benedick (The Public: As You Like It, TV: The Americans, NCIS: Los Angeles) equally defiant when it comes to love…until he’s smitten himself and from this new vantage point champions commitment. Friends set a tender trap bringing these two together despite their pride and protestations, they duke it out in a “merry war” of words.

 

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kenny Leon  Photo Joan Marcus
Featured here Danielle Brooks (Beatrice), Tiffany Denise Hobbs (Ursula), , Margaret Odette (Hero), and Olivia Washington (Margaret).

While good hearted friends are helping these two hook up, dark whispers evolve to swirl around another couple genuinely in love but soon to see the forces of evil, merciless malevolence at play, break them apart. Claudio (Jeremie Harris, The Public: Father Comes Home From The Wars, TV: God Friended Me) lets his insecurities lead the way when he chooses the “just about to tie the knot moment” to shatter a blissful future with the radiant, so easy to love Margaret Odette (TV: Elementary, Instinct, Regional: A Raisin In The Sun.) Fooled again after he realizes his tragic mistake and motivated by guilt and grief, after all it looks like Hero died from a broken heart, he agrees sight unseen to marry Hero’s cousin, as he’s told she’s a carbon copy of his lost Bride-to-be. This is Much Ado…about “nothing” so with happiness coming out of tragedy and love triumphing over hate, sparring couples see nothing left to stop them from a fine celebration of openness, truth, and honored commitments. Though it’s the end of the play and we hope all will live happily ever after, the threat of war lingers as if to imply Chapter Two may bring unrest.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kenny Leon  Photo Joan Marcus

War frames the action, grounding this comedy: warring hearts eventually find peace, warring soldiers return victorious from battles fought who knows where. Shakespeare does not let on precisely who the enemy is but no matter as the emphasis here is not on quashing opposing forces but on defending the values of the community. Though Much Ado is set in the future, is message harks back to protestors of the 1960s, Make Love Not War. Updated now to Hate is Not A Family Value.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kenny Leon  Photo Joan Marcus


Coming up Next from Free Shakespeare in The Park: Coriolanus

For the first time since 1979, Free Shakespeare in the Park presents CORIOLANUS, the Bard’s blistering drama about a general voted into power by a populace hungry for change, and the unraveling that follows. Tony Award winner Daniel Sullivan (Proof, Shakespeare In The Park’s Troilus and Cressida) directs a modern-day version of this riveting epic of democracy and demagoguery. Starts July 16. Tickets publictheater.org/register


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