Set around the love lives of Benedick, Beatrice, Hero and Claudio, this is one of the mid-career plays by the Bard, whose use of mistaken identity, secret love interests and sharp tonged characters never gets old.
We meet this motley crew in Messina, Italy where Don Pedro the Prince from Aragon is returning from battle. In his entourage, is a Claudio (the future suitor of Hero), Benedick (first cross and then reluctantly affectionate for Beatrice) and his wicked brother Don John. They come to the household of Leonata, Hero’s mother (in the original, Leonato, the father to Hero), who is also occupied by the incessant slighting of all men by her niece Beatrice.
Not as expansive in scale as a Julius Caesar or even a Romeo and Juliet, this performance celebrating twenty-nine years by Repercussion Theatre was formidable and thoroughly entertaining.
While Claudio begins to woo Hero, Don Pedro offers to do so on his behalf, to suss out if love exists on both sides. While Don Pedro does Claudio’s bidding, Don John hatches a plot to incite Claudio against the Prince. He attempts to poison him by implying that the Prince is wooing Hero for himself. The misunderstanding doesn’t last and Claudio is able to win Hero’s hand in marriage. As part of this merry event, Claudio and Don Pedro take it upon themselves to plant seeds of affection on both sides for Beatrice and Benedick. While their war of words continues, the stories of the others’ deep love and fondness for each of them is dropped around strategically to have the desired effect. Don John is not easily cowered and Hero’s impending nuptials are certainly no deterrent. The trick of mistaken identity is employed for a 1000 ducats (love that use of currency!) to dishonor Hero and rupture any chance of her being happily married to Claudio. This all resolves in the end after quite a few Shakespearean twists and turns.
There is something about Shakespeare (and well theatre in general) that in the bright of a partly cloudy sky, the lush of a neighbourhood park and a community coming together to partake in the reverie, makes it a more rewarding experience. Outside of the setting, the acting was top notch. I’m very happy to see Repercussion continuing with its tradition of a lovely diverse cast of actors.
Qunicy Armorer plays Benedick with gentle strength, both as the reluctant lover and a master of banter. Holly Gauthier-Frankel plays Beatrice, delivering a spirited performance, and Hero, played by Tiernan Cornford, is delivered with poise and maturity. Matthew Kabwe plays Don Pedro, proverbial and upright, complimented brilliantly by the impetuous Claudio played by Dakota Jamal Wellman. And the versatile Anurag Choudhury plays both Borachio and the Friar (priest) with equal ease and aplomb. Other members of the supporting cast are equally creditable. My favorite for the evening was the graceful and matriarchal performance by Susan Glover as Leonata, a variation from the original play, where Leonato is the nobleman. Glover brings heft and grace a plenty to the performance.
This edition of Shakespeare in the Park travels around the city for the next two weeks. For more details, click HERE.