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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Measure for Measure

Also see Susan's review of The Velocity of Autumn


Gracie Terzian, S. Lewis Feemster, Cameron Folmar,
Jacqui Jarrold and Amber Mayberry

Measure for Measure is famously described as one of William Shakespeare's "problem plays," but its consideration of the tangled interplay among sex, justice, and politics means that it remains eternally timely. Director Jonathan Munby has created a thoughtful and vivid production for Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company that presents the parallels to contemporary life without belaboring them.

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 Duke—whom the audience has seen being tempted by a strapping young man in the cabaret—decides 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 she—unlike many of the other characters—knows 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
Measure for Measure
September 12th – October 27th
By William Shakespeare
Vincentio, the Duke: Kurt Rhoads
Escalus, a Lord: Jack Wetherall
Angelo, the Deputy: Scott Parkinson
Lucio: Cameron Folmar
Mistress Overdone, a Bawd: Naomi Jacobson
Pompey, a Pimp: Chris Genebach
Provost: Eric Martin Brown
Claudio, a young gentleman: Avery Clark
Juliet, beloved of Claudio: Katie deBuys
Friar Peter: John Lescault
Isabella, sister to Claudio: Miriam Silverman
Justice: John Lescault
Elbow, a constable: Hugh Nees
Froth, a gentleman: Ned Noyes
Mariana, engaged to Angelo: Natascia Diaz
Abhorson, an executioner: Andrew Criss
Barnardine, a prisoner: Dan Istrate
Ensemble: S. Lewis Feemster, Jacqui Jarrold, Manu Kumasi, Michael Litchfield, Amber Mayberry, Jack Powers, Gracie Terzian, Jaysen Wright
Directed by Jonathan Munby
Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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