Review: In Central Park, a "lot of noise" for something big


Or at least for a time not far from here. Production is scheduled for 2020, on the eve of an election where, as some of Beowulf Boritt's prominent banners suggest, Stacey Abrams is running for president. (Ms. Abrams, Democratic Democrat Governor of Georgia in 2018, was herself in the audience Friday night.) At a manse in what appears to be a top-flight township of Atlanta, Leonato (Chuck Cooper), father of Hero, welcomes a regiment of recently returned soldiers from victory to war; they get on the stage in a real S.U.V.

But what kind of soldiers and what kind of war? The signs worn by men (and women) when they walk in formation suggest that they will not come back from a literal battle: "Now, more than ever, we must love," "I am a person. Are they civil rights warriors? Pride paraders? Electoral guards defending the integrity of the vote?

Shakespeare did not specify, any more than Mr. Leon, but you soon realized that, under comedy, this production reflects a world in which domestic violence is more of a threat than the alien nature. It's not for nothing that Beatrice started on a parapet singing Marvin Gaye's 1971 hit, "What's Going On". And when it blends into a mix of "America the Beautiful," sung seriously by the ladies on duty, Ursula and Margaret, begin to feel how patriotism and desperation will make love very difficult.

But it is above all the credulity of men that does it. Mr. Coleman makes a hilarious demonstration of popinjay. cold blood. (It's a toxic brother with discolored blond hair.) What Mr. Harris's gentle Claudio hides is more frightening: the violence of male vanity hurt.

The gossip, the deception, the false news played on both men. This overabundance of unreliable words, making the speech coagulate, seems terribly familiar, even though today most of them reach us electronically. Benedick is so distorted by his habit of concealing his true feelings behind his jokes that he can not bring himself to say the word "marriage" even as he finally proposes it; Mr. Coleman stutters, swallows and finally manages to do so in a pathetic whisper.

However, women speak clearly: to fight back, to set limits. Mrs. Brooks makes sure that Beatrice's adorned resistance is perfectly commensurate with the threat; why should she volunteer to dull herself in a marriage that exists only on the terms of someone else?

Indeed, it is so powerful that, for a moment, I wondered if Mr. Leon could bring a convincing happy ending to the court. what Shakespeare calls a "happy war" may seem terribly threatening to the modern the eyes. Yet it does so in a shocking and, retrospectively, unavoidable way.


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