* * *
PBS continues to present plays and musicals on TV and streaming video that were originally telecast on its “Great Performances” anthology series—wonderful and comforting news for American playgoers whom the coronavirus pandemic has cruelly deprived of the collective pleasure of seeing shows in the theater.
The latest offering is the Public Theater’s 2019 Shakespeare in the Park production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” which featured an all-black cast and was directed by Kenny Leon. Mr. Leon is well known to New York audiences for his work on such notable Broadway and off-Broadway revivals and premieres as August Wilson’s “Fences,” Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play” and Lydia R. Diamond’s “Smart People” and “Stick Fly.” Not only is he the go-to guy for black writers’ plays on Broadway, but he is one of the best stage directors we have—period. A craftsman of something like genius, he specializes in stagings so transparent as to create the illusion that he’s doing nothing more than staying out of the way of the script. Part of the illusion arises from the fact that Mr. Leon never distracts you with self-consciously clever touches: All you seem to see is the play itself.
It happens that “Much Ado” is the first classical play I’ve seen Mr. Leon direct, and since I was unable to catch it onstage in Central Park last summer, I’d been looking forward eagerly to this TV version. Not at all surprisingly, it is a rip-snorting success, a modern-dress update that puts an up-to-the-second Black Lives Matter spin on Shakespeare’s text while remaining absolutely true to the play’s underlying substance….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
Kenny Leon talks about Much Ado About Nothing: