Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Measure for Measure
Also see Susan's review of The Velocity of Autumn
Shakespeare set the play in Vienna, and Munby has placed it in the dissolute 1930s (a milieu familiar to theatergoers from the stage and movie versions of Cabaret). In fact, the performance begins with a risqué pre-show cabaret entertainment in the establishment of Mistress Overdone, Naomi Jacobson, sublime in a small role, featuring newly written songs with the sound of the period. Composer Adam Wernick worked with Martin Hutson, who wrote lyrics in English, and Drew Lichtenberg, who translated the lyrics into German. This scene introduces Lucio (Cameron Folmar), cheerfully perverse in his dirty white dinner jacket and rouged cheeks, and the tortured Duke Vincentio (Kurt Rhoads), as well as well-dressed socialites, bare-chested men in black lederhosen, and threatening soldiers keeping the peace.
The Dukewhom the audience has seen being tempted by a strapping young man in the cabaretdecides that he has been remiss in not cracking down on this licentiousness and corruption. He decides to take a leave of absence and places Angelo (Scott Parkinson), a tightly wrapped authoritarian, in charge of cleaning up the city.
Angelo takes an unholy pleasure in shutting down the brothels and making an example of a young nobleman, Claudio (Avery Clark), condemning him to death for impregnating his fiancée before the wedding. Claudio's sister Isabella (Miriam Silverman), a novice nun, pleads for her brother's life, and Angelo offers a deal: he will free Claudio if she agrees to sex with him. (Munby stages this scene as close to an attempted rape.) As it happens, the Duke is still in Vienna, disguised as a friar, and he helps Isabella maintain her chastity and Claudio keep his head.
Along with Parkinson, Silverman and Folmar, the strongest performance comes from Natascia Diaz as Mariana, the woman Angelo contracted to marry and then abandoned. Munby gives her two opportunities to demonstrate her singing skill, and sheunlike many of the other charactersknows exactly what she wants and has no scruples about getting it.
While Alexander Dodge's scenic design is sometimes a little busy, with drops falling from the flies and set pieces rolling on from all sides, Linda Cho's costumes strike the right notes, from the austere robes of the friars and nuns to the decadent outfits for the cabaret dancers.
Shakespeare Theatre Company