Monday, February 18, 2013

Much Ado About Cake

Photo credit: Gerry Goodstein
Theatre For a New Audience might be overtaking--or at least tied with--The Public Theatre as the most reliable theater company for putting on Shakespeare. You can see its delightful revival of Much Ado About Nothing through April 6 at the Duke on 42nd Street (the company will soon be moving to a permanent space in Brooklyn).

Whether a production of Much Ado works depends mostly on the casting of Benedick and Beatrice, the characters engaged in a war of wits and tricked into falling in love by Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, and Claudio, an officer like Benedick. This production succeeds on that front with the casting of Jonathan Cake and Maggie Siff. The sparks fly between them and they make the Bard's words fresh. But it is the charismatic and seductive Cake who steals the show. It is easy to see why Beatrice falls for him (though you wonder what took so long). They rest of the cast is fine with another standout in John Christopher Jones's Dogberry. He excels at playing bumbling fools. Arbus once again proves to have a great understanding of Shakespeare's plays, making them accessible, but also not shying away from the darker undercurrents. In one of the subplots, Claudio (Matthew Amendt) is tricked by Don Pedro's (Graham Winton) brother Don John (Saxon Palmer) into thinking that his intended Hero (Michelle Beck) has slept with another man.

Ricardo Hernandez sets an appropriate lighthearted tone with a simple set of not much more than a clothesline of laundry and a swing. Also adding to the atmosphere is Michael Friedman's charming score, performed by Spiff Wiegand.

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