Nick Hutchison of Folger Shakespeare Library got it right. “[There is] a misconception that Beatrice and Benedick… meet wittily, argue wittily, fall in love wittily, and married wittily at the end. Such parity is not what Shakespeare presents on the stage.”
In Folger’s presentation of Much Ado About Nothing, it is Hutchison’s respect for Benedick and Beatrice compounded with an understanding of “presentation” as a fundamental aspect of theatre (indeed, it is the very intention of any playwright) that results in Much Ado‘s hilarity.
Folger’s selection of a work encompassing perhaps the greatest battle of the sexes in the English language, appropriately set in post war (in Hutchison’s vision, World War II) melds fittingly with a season entitled She Said/He Said. Much Ado orbits a word war, a gender war, and the volatile mistrust Benedick (played to perfection by P. J. Sosko) and Beatrice (an astounding Kate Eastwood Norris) hold toward each other and the opposite sex at large. Amidst the humor of their quarrels, Dean Alai’s childish (and unfortunately forgettable) Claudio and Don Pedro (James Denvil), the noble leader of this military outfit, are deceived all too easily by the treacherous and devilish Don John (Jim Jorgenson), Pedro’s brother.
From the entrancing opening curtain, a mere spotlight upon a radio and the resounding broadcast of the allied victory, to P. J. Sosko’s acrobatic Benedick leaping summersaults to accomplish his eavesdropping and Norris’s hypnotizing Beatrice and quick tounge, Much Ado is, in simplest terms, enjoyable. Jim Zidar, formerly reviewed complementary for his work in Scena Theatre’s The Trial, makes the most of his brief stagetime as Dogberry, offering a uniquely paced yet appropriate characterization of Shakespeare’s dimwitted “officer of the law”. Little is not commendable about Hutchison’s work. Shakespeare wrote it right — Hutchison gives it to us as it should be. Spare an evening to see this play.
Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare. Directed by Nick Hutchison. Lighting, Dan Covey. With Tel Monks, Liz Mamana, Beth Hylton, James Denvil, Patrick Tansor, James Beard, Tryphena Wade. Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes. Through Nov. 27 at the Folger Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE. Call 202-544-7077