note: entire contents copyleft 2003 by Will Stackman
Reviewed by Will Stackman
Shakespeare in the Raw's production of the Bard's
problematic "Measure for Measure" (1604) is a
respectable "barebones" presentation of this difficult
script. Using an ensemble of nine, director Lesley
Chapman has edited a bit of the early exposition,
trimmed the foolery some, and made interesting gender
changes in the casting. Angelo, left in charge of this
mythical Vienna, has become Angela, played by Kim
Anton Myatt. Since the plot has this character
previously engaged to Marianna played by Kate Fredric,
same sex marriage is assumed to legal in this domain.
Unfortunately, there;s no easy way to establish this
other than a note in the program. Moreover, since the
doubling and tripling done in this sort of playing
usually involves gender changed or neutral
characterization, a certain stagey ambiguousness is
often the rule. Nevertheless, this cast acts it all
quite forthrightly, even when some of the arguments
The only main character who isn't doubled is Jason Myatt as the Duke, who however is disguised as Friar Lodovico for much of the play. He was seen earlier in the season in the world premiere of "What Time is it?" and played Petruchio a couple of seasons ago. Kim Anton Myatt also appears as the reprobate Bernadine, too drunk to be executed. She was also in "What Time..." as well as "Tongue of a Bird" which opened the Coop's season. Kate Fredric plays a frantic Sr. Francisca, and a very pregnant Juliet. She played in "The Creation of the World" this winter. Her consort, the unlucky Claudio, is John Morton, new to the Coop. He also plays the malaprop-prone constable Elbow. The heroine of the piece, Claudio's sister Isabella, is done by Val J. Sullivan, seen two seasons ago at the Publick as Ophelia. She projects the turmoil of this rather unfulfilling role to the end, and also doubles as Mistress Overdone, the brothel keeper. In that role her companion is Samuel Young, another Coop regular, as the outrageous bawd Pompey.
Supporting the often complex plot are Linda Tsang, as Escalus, second in command to the Duke and then Angela, who also shows a real gift for clowning playing the executioner, Abhorson. She was seen in last season's "Letters to a Student Revolutionary." Then local theatre veteran Kevin Groppe, head of Drama at Dana Hall, gets to cut loose as the libertine Lucio in fine repellent comic style and a gaudy beach shirt. And multi-talented Cheryl Singleton plays the sturdy Provost threading her way through the goings-on with steadfastness. Since the original text doesn't really solve the question of appearance versus reality which it repeatedly raises nor the complex questions of social justice, one can't expect a production such as this to do more than present the poet's arguments. In the main, this version, which runs one more weekend, accomplishes that end.