Monday, June 23, 2014

Much Ado About Nothing -- Shakespeare in the Park

The cast of The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: Joan Marcus
Much Ado About Nothing
By William Shakespeare
The Public Theater
Shakespeare in the Park


Lily Rabe…. Beatrice
Hamish Linklater….Benedick
Steel Burkhardt…. Balthasar
Austin Durant…. Friar Francis, Sexton
John Glover…. Leonato
David Manis…. Antonio, Verges
Kathryn Meisle…. Ursula
Ismenia Mendes….Hero
Brian Stokes Mitchell…. Don Pedro
John Pankow…. Dogberry
Pedro Pascal…. Don John
Eric Sheffer Stevens…. Borachio
Zoë Winters…. Margaret
Caudiio.... Jack Cutmore-Scott
Matt Bittner, Alex Breaux, Paco Lozano, and Matthew Russell…. Ensemble

Enjoying the Stars Under the Stars at Central Park
By Lauren Yarger
Lily Rabe is Beatrice and Hamish Linklater is Benedick in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, thei first of two free offerings by the Public Theater at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre this summer.

Other big names joining the cast are John Glover and Brian Stokes Mitchell

I hate re-telling Shakespeare plots in reviews since you either are familiar with them already, or will need Spark notes to follow if you’re not, so let this brief synopsis suffice (there’s also one in the program should you venture to the park):

It’s turn-of-the-century Sicily where Don Pedro, prince of Aragon, (Mitchell) visits his friend and governor of Messina, Leonato (Glover) along with two of his offers, Benedick and Claudio (Jack Cutmore-Scott). Claudio falls in love with Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Ismenia Mendes) while Bendick falls into scathing banter with long-time thorn-in-his-side Beatrice, Leonato’s insulting, quit witted niece.  

While acquaintances scheme to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love, Hero and Claudio’s marriage is threatened when Don Pedro’s treacherous illegitimate brother, Don John (Pedro Pascal), plots to besmirch Hero’s reputation. Betrayal, false death and a helpful Friar (Austiin Durant) -- not unlike the plot of Romeo and Juliet -- ensue, but with more comedic results as everyone makes a big ado about nothing.

This production, directed by Jack O’Brien, who plays up bits for minor characters for humor, is light and fun and takes place on an imposing set designed by John Lee Beatty including sundrenched stucco balconies, vines, vegetables and palm trees blending in with the greenery of Central Park. Jane Greenwood designs the simple costumes that place the production around late 19th century. A four-man band directed by Nathan Koce serenades with accordion, horns, strings and woodwinds as well as vocal solos.

Rabe is entertaining as the feisty Beatrice. While some of the dialogue sounds stilted and doesn’t flow easily for some of the other performers, sitting under the stars listening to the Bard isn’t a bad way to spend three hours in New York (except for those annoying helicopters that kept flying overhead).

Tickets to the Shakespeare in the Park shows are free. Virtual ticketing is done by lottery online at on the day of the show. You also can stand in line at the Delacorte the day of the show beginning at noon (but the line starts forming way before that). Supporter tickets also are available. For more information, call (212) 539-8734.

The next production will be King Lear, starring John Lithgow, beginning July 22.

FREE TICKETS to The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park are distributed, two per person (age 
5+), at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park beginning at noon on the day of each performance. In 
order to allow as many different people as possible to attend free Shakespeare in the Park this summer, 
visitors will be limited to receiving free tickets to two performances only of each production. There will 
continue to be a separate line for accessible tickets for senior citizens (65+) and patrons with disabilities.

VIRTUAL TICKETING LOTTERY FOR FREE TICKETS will be available at on the day of the show.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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