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NY1 Theater Review: 'Much Ado About Nothing'

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Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater is a New York City summer staple, and NY1's Roma Torre has a review of the first show of the summer season, "Much Ado About Nothing."

The Public Theater has staged yet another glowing Shakespeare In The Park production, but there's something else that deserves much ado. Veteran director Jack O'Brien is making his long-awaited debut on the Delacorte stage.

"Much Ado" will always be measured by the success of its Benedick and Beatrice, the combative couple at the center of this comedy with serious overtones. The writing is wonderfully witty, and Beatrice is perhaps Shakespeare's most modern depiction of a woman. She gives as good as she gets and rabidly asserts her independence.

At the play's start, her sparring scenes with Benedick, whom she claims to despise, are delicious, and as played by Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater, looking roguishly scruffy, there's a natural chemistry, sparking heat even in the chilliest exchanges. Of course, they discover true love eventually, and their softening affection is no less thrilling to watch.

The entire cast is on par with these two. Among the showier roles: Ismenia Mendes and Jack Cutmore-Scott as romantic duo Hero and Claudio handling the tragic elements beautifully. Pedro Pascal of "Game Of Thrones" fame makes an ideal villain. Public Theater staple John Pankow is marvelous once again as the malaprop-spouting Dogberry, and John Glover and Brian Stokes Mitchell add much nuance as the esteemed Leonato and Don Pedro. And it's a special treat to hear Stokes' majestic baritone join in song.

O'Brien, expert in comedy and tragedy, taps both here, but mostly, he exhibits a fine, light touch - some fun business at the beginning, lively pacing, John Lee Beaty's inviting Sicilian retreat, complete with a garden and orange tree, all add to the spell conjuring another night of magic courtesy the Bard and company in Central Park.

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