Park Slope

There’s so much to love about ‘Much Ado’

July 27, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Beatrice (Dee Byrd-Molnar) and Benedick (Bob D'Haene, both at center of the photo) share a moment in South Brooklyn Shakespeare's production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Photos by Justin Bereman

South Brooklyn Shakespeare dishes up the Bard's delectable dramedy

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.

She’s just got an odd way of showing it.

Beatrice, one of the Bard’s most brilliant It Girls, is a tart-tongued marvel, a wizard with the one-liners.

Benedick, who can hold his own when it comes to slinging zingers, is her prime target.

She says four of his five wits have fled him and left behind a fellow who’s just barely brighter than a horse. He calls her Lady Disdain.

They’re obsessed with each other.

“There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her,” Beatrice’s uncle, Leonato, the governor of Messina, explains to a bewildered bystander at the outset. “They never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them.”

Welcome to “Much Ado About Nothing,” which theater group South Brooklyn Shakespeare performed in superbly entertaining fashion on Saturday, July 25.

It was South Brooklyn Shakespeare’s first show of the summer. The troupe set up shop out in the street during a Park Slope Summer Stroll, when part of Fifth Avenue was closed to vehicular traffic.

A temporary stage was built next to Torres Tattoos. Hundreds of audience members sat on lawn chairs and beach blankets, taking up nearly the whole block between 17th and 18th streets.

Free al fresco Shakespeare at sunset — you needn’t be a nerd to love it.

Along with the eloquently sparring Beatrice and Benedick, mesmerizingly played by Dee Byrd-Molnar and Bob D’Haene, this fast-moving dramedy has an adorable and cruelly wronged ingenue, gullible guys and an intriguing villain who outsmarts a prince and a lord. It was penned by the best English-language playwright the world has ever known.

You want drama? At a key moment, the gullible lord in question, Claudio (perfectly acted by Hunter Hoffman), calls his bride, Hero (played by a luminous Emma Wisniewski), a whore. In church. During their wedding. He’s publicly shaming the governor of Messina’s innocent, virginal daughter.

Claudio and the gullible prince in question, Don Pedro (played by Brad Makarowski, who is charming and regal) are tricked into believing staggeringly dire lies about Hero. Don Pedro’s bastard brother Don John (portrayed by John Bergdahl as just the right mix of sinister, sullen and falsely sanctimonious) is to blame.

By the way, “bastard” is a statement of fact in this case, not a curse word.

You want comedy? There are so many funny moments. It’s best not to reveal everything, and to leave some surprises.

Suffice it to say that Beatrice is a whirlwind of a woman, born beneath a star that “danced,” as she explains, and thus possessed of sparkling wit that keeps the audience’s rapt attention. Byrd-Molnar does a terrific job in this role.

Beatrice is also a fiercely loving and loyal family member, which matters when trouble comes crashing down on her cousin, Hero.

D’Haene, too, is terrific as the incandescent, fast-talking Benedick, who is also a fine soldier, a lord and a man of honor.

South Brooklyn Shakespeare was founded by Byrd-Molnar and her husband, Paul Molnar. They own South, a popular bar on that block, and wanted to give back to the community.

Paul Molnar is the director of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

This is the third summer South Brooklyn Shakespeare has assembled on the streets of Park Slope.

Shakespeare fans who want to support this tradition-in-the-making can contribute money via website fracturedatlas.org  — the group attained 501(c)3 nonprofit status this year, which makes donations tax-deductible.

If you missed “Much Ado About Nothing,” fear not. Further performances are scheduled.

The Saturday,  Aug. 1 venue is in Washington Park, by the Old Stone House.

The Saturday, Aug. 15 location is on the street on Fifth Avenue at Dean Street, during another Summer Stroll road-closing.