Shakespeare loved his women. Beyond rumours of his lusty affairs, his plays female characters in Shakespeare’s comedies often trump the men’s powerless grasp at authority, witless charm, and drunken stupor. Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing rises to the top of his list for out-smarting the men about her. In most productions which I have seen of Much Ado About Nothing, actresses have played Beatrice’s wit with the sparkle of Champaign which none of the men can afford, save Benedick, who has sworn off such intoxicating stuff. In the Blackfriar Theatre’s production, Beatrice comes with a warning that one drink of her sorrow at one’s own risk. Still Benedick is the only man with the humility to taste such deep felt emotion.
I cannot expound on how much we have enjoyed watching Allison Glenzer develop her acting style over the past decade that we have watched her in various roles at the Blackfriar Theatre. Mrs. Glenzer’s Beatrice brought new insights into the inner life of Beatrice, and Shakespeare. With all the humor and banter that Beatrice carries on with other characters, Glenzer captures the underlying bitterness and fear, which explain why she keeps men at arm’s length and toys with them. Benedick (David Anthony Lewis) matches his interpretation perfectly to explain why Beatrice becomes the only one to whom he will bow.
As usual, while laughable, the other plots in the play revolve mindlessly, the destined lovers, Hero (Lauren Ballard) and Claudio (Benjamin Reed), the rivals Don Pedro (Rene Thornton, Jr.) and Don John (Josh Innerst), and all those in the court. We know, in the end, the plots will be revealed, the plotters vanquished, and the lovers united.
The affair between Beatrice and Benedick should be the side-play. But, Glenzer and Lewis take the stage with each entrance. More than knowing what they are up to, we can feel the motivations behind their declarations, ploys and antics. Humor is rarely about a good laugh or gag-line. Humor usually hides or reveals what we can only indirectly acknowledge. Denying love and chosing love comes best with humor. Could we, as with Beatrice and Benedick take such a risk on love otherwise?