Brooklyn Durs as Beatrice. photo: CTC

Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jennifer Pennington

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2021 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

The adage “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” can sound trite. It implies vapid emotional schlock with sentimentality. And yet I feel it seems fully justified for the current production of Much Ado About Nothing with the Commonwealth Theater Center’s (CTC) Young American Shakespeare Festival. Like so many theaters and performance groups, CTC went dark during the Covid shutdown in March 2020. With exuberance, CTC has made an enigmatic comeback with an outdoor festival complete with a superbly staged production of one of The Bard’s best comedies. 

Under the direction of Jennifer Pennington, the story takes place in a world consumed by changes of women’s suffrage, the strife of war, and the fear of the Spanish influenza epidemic. And yet the turmoil of the early part of the last century presents a mirror to society’s recent struggles. To that end, Pennington translates Much Ado into a sweet and tender tale of young love in a trying time. With each character fully masked and socially distanced, the speeches of love and innuendo take on a different meaning. At the beginning of the show, Don Pedro returns from war with his crew, and they lead parade the stage, the youthful energy of a return to normal was both apparent and fully welcomed.

This show is simple in staging and elegant in its wordplay. Pennington does well to elevate the humorous battle of sexes between roguish war hero, Benedick, played as a macho brute by  Roscoe Lindsay-Bruns, and Beatrice, a keen suffragette with opinions to spare played by Brooklyn Durs. They scowl and scold the other with great vibrato creating an even more satisfyingly sweet turn as they confess their love to one another. The cast fully embraces the nature of gossip, and the rumors are akin to modern-day social media with friends posting on a wall or sending a Snapchat. Alexander Diakov’s Claudio and Meaghan Northup’s Hero provide sweet lovesick contrast to Durs and Lindsay-Bruns’ feisty bickering. Leah Cohen, William Ngong, and Bryce Abell provide strong support in addition to a wonderful ensemble of young aspiring theater artists. 

I was able to watch the show two times. On its opening night, a massive rainstorm cut the first act short. Fortunately, I was able to see the full show later in the run. And what a show it was. Huge gusts of wind, garbage trucks passing through, the smell of nearby Butchertown in the air, and even high-pitched and muddled microphone mishaps could not frazzle this company. Despite all the obstacles, CTC has staged a Covid friendly festival complete with a production that reminds us of the follies of love and how – yes I will say it, where there’s a Will, there’s a way.

Much Ado About Nothing

May 7, 11, 14, & 16 @ 7:00 pm
May 9 @ 2:00 pm

Tickets: $15 – Click Here

Commonwealth Theatre Center
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204

Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and as well. Thanks for reading!