"She speaks poniards, and every word stabs: If her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there would be no living near her," muses Benedick in Act II of Much Ado About Nothing, and it is little wonder that he is speaking of his future bride, Beatrice (well, it's little wonder to all the married dudes out there). The verbal sparring of Beatrice and Benedick is the source of much of the humor in Shakespeare's problem-comedy. Beatrice is a live wire, quicker-witted and sharper-tongued than any other character, and if Benedick is not equally sharp, he's at least thick-skinned enough to survive the worst of Beatrice's invective.
But Beatrice and Benedick are not even the centerpiece of Much Ado; the much-thwarted love affair between Hero (she's rumored to be a whore) and Claudio (a likeable fellow, if a bit gullible) is the main focus of the play. Their affair is stage-managed by various friends and foes, a circumstance that helps Shakespeare skewer the traditions of courtly love, with all its go-betweens and masked assignations. Beatrice and Benedick, who pitch woo by throwing daggers, are the precursor to all the Sam Malone/Diane Chambers and David Addison/Madelyn Hayes pairings of the sitcom generation. Throw in Dogberry, the antecedent for every Coach/Herbert Viola TV's ever had, and you have Shakespeare's best shot at an Emmy. The Washington University Theatre Department presents Much Ado About Nothing at the Edison Theatre (6445 Forsyth Boulevard; 314-935-6543) at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday (February 24 through March 5). Tickets are $9 to $15.
Fridays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 24. Continues through March 5