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Measure for Measure

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Beverly Bullock
Shakespeare at Love Creek
American Theatre of Actors/Sargent Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare's bawdiest comedies. It centers on the consequences of people having or not having sex. Unfortunately, Shakespeare at Love Creek failed to take advantage of the lewd material, making for a bland (although not dreadful by any means) production.

The plot follows a kingdom where the Duke has left on hiatus. He has put in his place a stringent despot, Angelo, who intends to clean up the kingdom. He wishes to close down the brothel and persecute those who have sex outside of wedlock. In the main subplot, Claudio has impregnated his love, Julietta. He has been sentenced to death by the unrelenting Angelo, much to everyone's chagrin. Claudio's sister, Isabella, who is a nun, pleads for his life, but the hypocritical Angelo will only give it to her if she sleeps with him.

It is the typical comedy of errors, where clever deception eventually pays off. The show has many funny gags and lines, as well as a plethora of sexual innuendoes, not all of which were emphasized in the production. Overall, the pacing and energy were the major problems. These both picked up near the end, however, so perhaps the production was suffering from a case of early-in-the-run-doldrums.

The actors overall were understated and grounded. There was a certain realism about most of the performances that did not jell with the absurdity of the plot. The ensemble, however, had chemistry and worked well together, even if the pacing was lethargic.

The standouts of the evening were in two lesser roles. As Lucio, John Martin Keenan was enthusiastically animated as well as quite funny. He managed to get as much innuendo and comedy out of each of his lines as possible. When he was on stage, the audience was drawn to his charismatic fervor. Furthermore, in two even smaller roles, Mistress Overdone and Julietta, Sri Gordon shone. She had a certain feisty fire that ignited whenever she was on stage.

Beverly Bullock's design and direction were a mixed bag. The staging was good; the set was designed to have many different playing areas. The period costumes were vibrant and vivacious, while color-coordinated and fashionable for the time.

Measure for Measure is a classic play no matter how it is done. This production had its moments, yet overall lagged and dragged. Thus, unfortunately, this production failed to consistently measure up.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Seth Bisen-Hersh