Let me say right now I went into seeing The Devil's Bride at Theatre Unleashed utterly in love with the concept. Essentially this is a sequel to William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. At the end of that comedy, the villain of the piece--the bastard Don John--has been captured and the too-clever-for-his-own-good hero Benedick is given the power to decide his punishment. This play is all about that punishment. In effect it is sequel.
The result proved quite lovely!
Don John (Michael Cortez) we meet in a dungeon, under the auspices of Dogberry (Richard Abraham) and Verges (Cyanne McClairian), two of the funniest Shakespearean characters this side of Midsummer Night's Dream. Soon enough Benedick (Jim Martyka) arrives to order his relief under specific conditions--the bastard prince is to forfeit all lands, treasure and titles unless he can persuade Benedick's sister Allegra (Sammi Lappin) to marry him.
Jenn Scuderi Crafts), even as Allegra herself arrives in Messina from Padua. Generations ago, a gypsy curse decreed any girl child born of their family would see all those who agreed to marry them die before their wedding day. Allegra, the first such child in generations, took the legend as exactly that--until she was betrothed three times in a row to men who died before the wedding. She has resolved to enter a convent. Benedick believes Don John might break her resolve and in the process she will temper his dark impulses. And as a royal prince with a substantial fortune she "could do worse."
When alone on stage, Allegra reveals this is not at all to her liking. She had dreamt of love, of marriage and children. But even though she liked none of her late fiancees, neither did she want any of them dead! The same is true of Don John!
But totally worthless unless the cast is equal to it.
Yet, those are quibbles. The Devil's Bride not only lived up overall to my hopes, but gave me lots of lovely surprises as well as compelling performances full of those contradictory impulses that make characters human. I want to see this show again.
The Devil's Bride plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm until May 21, 2016 with special Monday shows May 2 and 9 also at 8pm, upstairs at the Belfry Stage 11031 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood CA 91602