Originally written as a novel by Joan Silsby, The Devil's Bride was adapted for the stage in 2006 and returns to Theatre Unleashed under the direction of Wendy Gough Soroka (Sleeping Around). The play is a sequel to William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, turning its focus to the villainous Don John and the events immediately following the classic tale. When offered the opportunity to gain his freedom if he consents to marry Benedick's sister Allegra (who may or may not be under a Gypsy curse that promises death to her intended bridegroom), Don John must battle his own demons that have driven him to villainy - and stand in his way of happiness. In this romantic comedy-mystery, Don John is provided with not only the opportunity for redemption, but what can be argued as the chance to become a truly great, identifiable, and complex character whose journey is compelling and thrilling to watch. Skillfully written by Silsby, The Devil's Bride demonstrates that the simple act of changing one's perspective can mean all the difference in finding connection, compassion, and understanding.
As with all of TU's performances, the ensemble of actors and actresses is truly commendable, bringing to life Silsby's Shakespearean dialogue with zest and deftness; however, I cannot stress enough the prowess and charisma with which actors Michael Cortez (Don John) and TU veteran Sammi Lappin (Allegra) find chemistry with one another and infuse the entire performance with their magnetism. Aided by Silsby's witty and insightful script, Cortez and Lappin transform two damaged characters into relatable, compassionate, and enthralling lovers who find comfort and safety in one another, allowing them to be their true selves without shame or guilt. The palpable passion generated by these two performers is simply incredible. Having seen Lappin in several Theatre Unleashed performances, I am completely in awe of her range and ability, and I can only hope that audiences will likewise have the chance to see more of Cortez in future productions. I would be remiss if I did not note the performances of Jim Martyka as Benedick, Jenn Scuderi Crafts as Beatrice, Lee Pollero as Conrade, and Richard Abraham as Dogberry whose comedic delivery and timing were fantastically on point.
Simply put, TU's The Devil's Bride elevates Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and rehabilitates a memorable character into an unforgettable one.
The show will run on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through May 21 at 8 p.m. at The Belfry Stage in North Hollywood. Tickets are $20 each and are available online or at the door. Patrons may also "Pay What You Want" for tickets with a $5 donation to the Camp Del Corazon. Please note that the theatre is located upstairs, and it is not wheelchair accessible. Be sure to visit the Theatre Unleashed website for further details.