note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
Diego Arciniegas is making changes as the new director of The Publick Theatre. For one thing, the stage has been redesigned to be closer to the audience. Arciniegas is developing a "Young Company" for teens, and offering a Shakespeare workshop for professionals. His crisp, light-hearted "Much Ado About Nothing" opens the summer season with everyone's favorite war of the sexes. The Herculean task of matching up Beatrice and Benedick despite themselves falls to a crackerjack cast of Boston actors.
A delicious "skirmish of words" breaks out when the haughty Beatrice tries to deflate the boastful Benedick "by turning him inside out." The Duke and his cohorts play cupid by tricking each into thinking the other pines for them.
Arciniegas has inspired fun with Beatrice running "like a lapwing" through the trees adjacent to the outdoor stage...and he places Benedick in the audience with us, crawling over us to hear the fictitious account of a lovestruck Beatrice.
Robert Pemberton perches his body on tiptoes, thrusting his chest forward in sheer delight at the news that Beatrice is so completely smitten. His eyes dance in anticipation of his conquest....His laugh lights up the whole Charles River....in short he is the quintessential Benedick.
Sarah Newhouse plays the quick witted Beatrice with a New Yawkshire accent so that every line is silly.. Arciniegas goes for laughs rather than drama even when Benedick swears to avenge the wrong done to Hero (in the serious subplot). Beatrice's demand that he "kill Claudio" is now a joke. (I hate to carp because the production is so charming, but that "Kill Caludio" ought to be in dead earnest.)
Next to Benedick, William Church as the treacherous Don John is the most charismatic man on stage. Hero (a spunky Stacy Fischer) should have set her sights on him instead of he fickle Claudio.
Nancy Carroll has a grand time as the dotty Sargent Dogberry massacring aphorisms left and right. She's aided in mayhem by Stephen Falcone and the adorably officious Charles Linshaw and Nathaniel McIntyre. Arciniegas gets fine performances from the whole crew so that (to quote Jim Bodge as the venerable friar) "Wonder seems familiar" and not only familiar but abundant at the Publick this month.