Review: 'Much Ado About Nothing'

By Jim Rutter

For THE INQUIRER 

“To suffer love.” This unusual line appears three times in quick order toward the end of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s fresh, exuberant production illuminates the Bard’s theme with a fullness and flourish.

Much of Much Ado centers on the unwilling affection building between Beatrice (Eleni Delopoulos) and Benedick (Chance Dean), a proud maid and professed bachelor trading jaded barbs about how they will never marry, especially not each other.

But this comedic confection conceals a bitter core in the budding romance between Claudio (Isaiah Ellis) and Hero (Lauren Sowa). While early endearment leaves each speechless, these tender, though tenuous first pangs give way to hidden jealousy that scant evidence easily inflames.

Domenick Scudera’s brilliant direction elucidates the duality between earnestness and fear, tenderness and the urge for self preservation. He whittles Shakespeare’s five-act text to two, cleaved for maximum impact between the lighthearted and darker elements of the text.

Delopoulos and Dean’s superb deadpan and machine gun delivery add ample effervescence, which the rest of the cast supports with clever performances of dance, song, slapstick and nuanced characterization (especially Eric Fan Wie’s Keystone Cop Dogberry).

The otherwise young cast initially causes concern; Shakespeare’s soldiers (redeployed to World War II in Brian Strachan’s smart costumes) have returned from war, and many of these look more prettified for a parlor than bruised by battle. But their deceptive innocence works to Scudera’s advantage, showing barbarity in inexperience tempered by the notion that easy forgiveness is something only afforded to the young or those young in affection.

Scudera starts and ends his staging with song, called for in the text, a bit awkward in this presentation. But one minor mishap cannot eclipse this production’s thorough reminder that at any stage of love, the hard gravel of suffering yields perennial blooms of joy.

Much Ado About Nothing. Presented through May 19 by the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival, 2111 Sansom St. Tickets: $25 to $35. Information: 215-496-9722 or phillyshakespeare.org 

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines
Help us learn more about Philly.com commenters. Click here to take this quick survey.

Comment policy:

Philly.com comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by Philly.com staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Load comments
Continue Reading