The Public Theater has a branch called “The Mobile Shakespeare Unit” which is designed to give access to everyone included those in our society who are less privileged. The cast travels to parks, homeless shelters and prisons to put on their production which this season, is MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING; a play about two pairs of lovers. The younger two are sweet and can hardly contain their longing for each other. The older one’s proclaim their disdain for love and are constantly bickering. As Artistic Director Oskar Eustis says in his note “Love is, in one sense, nothing; it has no weight, it is not made of matter; it cannot be touched or seen. But that nothing is, of course, everything. It is worth much ado. It is what gives our lives meaning and shape, and is very hard to do well.”
Instead of casting fifteen characters, the production was scaled back to have eight actors play all the parts. Although there was no weak link in the bunch, there were two standouts. Michael Braun who played Benedick captivated the audience with his heartfelt delivery and execution. Samantha Soule played the brutish Beatrice. She was standoffish to Benedick at first and then her softer side started to seep through. They both did a fantastic job of playing the older lovers who at first seemed wiser than the rest of the bunch until they truly fell for each other.
The bare bones props and scenery were helpful. Instead of distracting the audience with too much fluff, there were only a few props and allowed us to focus. The lights stayed up the entire show and the actors played in the round or I should say, in the (black) box which was so beautifully intimate. There were times the actors walked, crawled and slithered through the aisles. It made the audience laugh and engage with each character.
With many Shakespeare productions happening around town, I can, without a doubt, say this is one that should not be missed. It’s set in present day so modern clothing, cell phones and magazines are used. For more information check out: http://www.publictheater.org/
Rating: To Be