Olivia Washington and Danielle Brooks in rehearsal for Much Ado About Nothing (photographer Joan Marcus, image courtesy The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park)

“I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me” is just as withering a clapback today as when the Bard wrote it (roughly) 420 years ago. Much Ado About Nothing is William Shakespeare’s most frequently staged comedy, and its iconic lines have returned to Shakespeare in the Park this year. This time they’ll be spoken by an all-Black cast, directed by Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun, Holler If Ya Hear Me, and many more).

Danielle Brooks (Taystee on Orange is the New Black and Sofia in a Tony-nominated run of The Color Purple) will lead the cast as Beatrice, who has some of the best zinger’s in the play, including the one above. Grantham Coleman, Jamar Brathwaite, Chuck Cooper, and Olivia Washington will join Brooks in the cast. Leon changed the setting of Shakespeare’s play from the Sicilian city of Messina to modern-day mansion Atlanta, Georgia. Speaking to the Daily News about the production, he explained why he used an all-Black cast, calling the themes in the play universal: “I didn’t cast it all black because I wanted an all-black production,” he said. “I cast it because it came to me in terms of the play about community and I just chose it around this specific place in Georgia.”

The Public Theater promises that the production will “put black excellence front and center.” The public can check it out free at the outdoor Delacorte Theater in Central Park from now through June 23. Note that free tickets get distributed for each performance through lottery systems, but you can also head down on the grass with a blanket and a picnic.

When: Ongoing through June 23
Where: The Delacorte Theater (81st Street, Central Park, Manhattan)

Eric Vilas-Boas is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic. He has previously worked at Thrillist, Esquire, SPIN, Donorschoose.org, and his writing has appeared at Vulture, Slashfilm, Lit Hub, Paste,...

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