Remember those romantic comedies of the ‘30s and ‘40s, in which two people who dislike each other end up falling in love? Or realizing they loved each other all along?
It could be said that the protagonists of Much Ado about Nothing, one of Shakespeare’s enduring and endearing comedies, serve as the paradigm. Sharp-tongued Beatrice and Benedick are pushed toward love by their friends until they realize that maybe there’s something to the well-intentioned trickery after all.
…Kristen Page-Kirby and, even more, Keith Cassidy, envelop the roles with wit and energy.
Certainly, most productions of Much Ado about Nothing rest on the talents of the actors who play the warring pair. Currently, at Silver Spring Stage, Kristen Page-Kirby and, even more, Keith Cassidy, envelop the roles with wit and energy. She excels with the sarcasm, while he with the confusion of hate vs. love.
But what became clearer to me in this production, more than others I’ve seen, is that Shakespeare actually gives Hero (she) and Claudio as much if not more stage time as the leads. The preference of audiences for Beatrice and Benedick is understandable—they are more colorful, and usually attract the most-famous actors—but the playwright has much to say through the “secondary” couple.
As adapted and directed by Andrew Greenleaf, who also serves as co-producer, this production emphasizes that Hero and Claudio are the flip side of Beatrice and Benedick. Their long-term and trusting romance is up-ended by gossip and a set-up, leading the young man to believe his fiancée unfaithful.
This is only the second time in its 48-year history that the community theater has presented a work by the Bard. It’s a good choice, given the play’s popularity, quotable lines, and rich characters. It is also uses more prose than most of Shakespeare’s plays.
Of course, as in many of his works, the comic and the dark side co-mingle. There is plenty of humor, but there is also cruelty. Claudio is merciless toward Hero, believing on the flimsiest of evidence that she is unfaithful and even her own father is ready to exact the harshest punishment. It’s hard to forget these turns of plot even during the happy ending.
Not every actor is equally up to the task of Shakespearean language, and there are a few lagging moments. But overall, this is a delightful production with many fine performances and a director who has clearly thought deeply about one of the play’s basic themes—the willingness of people in Shakespeare’s day and her own (social media?) to give credence what they see and hear without examination.
The audience seemed appreciative not only of the production’s quality but of the very fact that they can see Shakespeare close to home.
Alex Bassett has perhaps the toughest role, undergoing dramatic changes from love to hate and back again. He is thoroughly believable in all.
Louis Pangaro as Leonato goes through an arc of his own, from proud father to furious one and back again.
Kelly Shaughnessy has a dazzling smile and delicate beauty that fit the role of Hero—which she plays without melodrama.
Bill Hurlbut brings his usual energy to the part of Don Pedro, the Prince. John Decker plays his villainous brother, Don John, subtly. Decker also designed the lovely set—with a wall fountain, greenery, and numerous gates.
Nello DeBlasio is the repentant villain, Borachio, as well as assistant director.
Nick Sampson gets plenty of laughs as the self-important, malapropism-prone constable, Dogberry. He was also responsible for the sound design.
Katherine Beem is the costume designer, whose handiwork includes Hero’s sumptuous wedding gown.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 30 minutes long, with a 15-minute intermission (and a long first act).
Advisory: Fourteen and up, more for the sophistication of the language than anything else.
Much Ado about Nothing continues through April 17 at Silver Spring Stage, Woodmoor Shopping Center, 10145 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20901. For tickets and information, call (301) 593-6036 or click here.