Much Ado About Nothing is a lighter Shakespeare play, in part because the love-lorn pair, Beatrice (Danielle Brooks) and Benedick (Grantham Coleman), have no parents and in part because its villain, Don John (Hubert Point-Du Jour), never poses much of a threat. He lies with the Machiavellianism but not the talent of Iago. Still, Much Ado is a play about speech, from the verbal fencing between Beatrice and Benedick to the gossip of their friends, who talk loudly and pointedly about a love that both feel but neither have expressed.
The good news, then, is that the current revival at the Delacorte Theater is full of effortless speech, a rarity in Shakespearean performance. The cast is clearly having a blast—their good cheer is contagious—and they deliver their dialogue with an easy fluency that gives the jokes room to breathe. Anyone who plays Beatrice must be a tornado of a presence onstage, and in this, in Beatrice’s force of personality, Brooks is splendid. Coleman, whose character is no match for hers, nevertheless meets Brooks’ charisma. At the performance I attended, he was interrupted mid-speech by heavy rain. Once the performance was allowed to resume, he walked onstage, deadpanned to the crowd, and continued—from the top of the speech.
Really, everything here is terrific: the set by Beowulf Boritt evokes life in and around an Atlanta mansion, and this one blends beautifully with its Central Park background. Camille A. Brown’s choreography is lively, joyful. In the past, director Kenny Leon has sometimes veered too far into safe, conservative choices, but with this first-rate team of actors and artists, he proves that a light touch can enable the text to speak for itself.