Esbjornson to Direct Much Ado About Nothing in Central Park in Summer 2004

News   Esbjornson to Direct Much Ado About Nothing in Central Park in Summer 2004
Much Ado About Nothing, directed by David Esbjornson, will be The Public Theater's "Shakespeare in the Park" offering this summer.
David Esbjornson
David Esbjornson Photo by Aubrey Reuben

No casting has been announced, but Ado offers two plum roles in Benedick and Beatrice, famous as sparring lovers who vacillate between love and hate. The comedy, set in Messina, concerns a group of soldiers and the impact their arrival has on the town and its residents (particularly the women). While the youthful Hero and Claudio fall in love, eternal bachelor Benedick and headstrong maid Beatrice—who profess to despise one another—rail against the idiocy of romantic alliances between men and women. Meanwhile, the vengeful bastard Don John plots the undoing of Hero and Claudio's union.

Along with Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing has historically proved one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies, both with audiences and actors hungry to play the sharp-tongued hero and heroine. It is also arguably one of the Bard's most timeless plays, as the battle of the sexes has never waned over the centuries.

New York has seen many a Benedick and Beatrice over the years. Much Ado was one of the offerings at the John Street Theatre, Manhattan's first playhouse of note. Legendary American Shakespearean actors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, E.H. Southern and Julia Marlowe, were known for their interpretations of the roles, playing them on Broadway several times.

John Gielgud and Margaret Leighton brought a production to Times Square in 1959, while Sam Waterston and Kathleen Widdoes topped the bill in a 1972 effort. The most recent Broadway Ado was a Royal Shakespeare Company mounting in 1984 and starred Derek Jacobi and Sinead Cusack. Off-Broadway, the Aquila Theatre Company recently staged a successful version set in the swingin' England of the 1960s (with visual references to early James Bond films).

For the past few summers, the Public has presented only one play (albeit with a longer-than-usual run) at Central Park's Delacorte Theatre, rather than two, which had long been the practice.

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