The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Much Ado About Nothing


Howard W. Overshown and Rachel Leslie as Beatrice and Benedick in Folger Theatre’s Much Ado About Nothing. Photo Credit: Carol Pratt.

I can’t think of a better antidote to losing the sunshine when you leave work than to head to the Folger to see its vibrant production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Once inside the theater you’ll feel instantly transported back to summer.

Setting Shakespeare’s “Much Ado” during our own DC Caribbean Carnival may at first seem like a random decision, but it’s hardly that. The play’s core theme revolves around masking and unmasking identity. Characters intentionally hide their true selves and motives from others, mistaking the identity of others both figuratively and literally. Perhaps not in such an obvious way as other Shakespeare plays – but “Much Ado” is more mature, tackling the complexities of relationships. Despite plumbing these depths, it also manages to have some hysterical fun.

Former lovers Benedick and Beatrice fight out their mistrust and pain with biting sarcasm and wit. Their knowledge of each other’s faults is stronger at first than of each other’s strengths, and it’s their journey of mutual discovery to love and respect that makes this one of the most loved Shakespearean comedies. Contrast their relationship with the callow puppy love of the younger Claudio, Benedick’s protege, and Hero, Beatrice’s cousin – two lovers whose lack of knowledge about each other’s natures is the catalyst for some dirty dealing by villian Don John. Add in some well-meaning friends and relatives who manage to stir the pot for both good and bad, and you have a journey to teach everyone a little bit about love.

But does the setting work? Absolutely. The minute Claudio came in as a DC bike cop, I was sold.

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