Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare's comedy built on trickery at every turn, is much ado about making good theater at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, where it opened Friday night in a greatly entertaining production.
James J. Christy's version sweeps fluidly through the plot, one of Shakespeare's simplest, which he spun by getting extra mileage out of a successful play he'd already created — The Taming of the Shrew. Acrimonious lovers do well on stage, he'd found, and he set up Much Ado's Beatrice and Benedick as bickering opposites who have known each other for a long time and eventually come to see that they're not so opposite after all — but only after they're tricked into it, each being falsely told of the other's secret passion. Everyone who knows them accepts their constant swapping of insults as normal behavior they've developed over time. But in fact the two characters share something else: a stunningly empty loneliness. Shakespeare only alludes to it, even as Benedick constantly protests the very concept of love and Beatrice constantly dismisses all of Benedick.