Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Measure for Measure"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"Measure for Measure"

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Spiro Veloudos

Scenic Design by Brent Wachter
Lighting Design by Cory Gilliam
Costume Design by Toni Bratton Elliot
Sound Design by A. Stanley Gurczak
Stage Manager Cathie Regan

Angelo.............................Diego Arciniegas
Isabella...............................Laura Yosowitz
Duke Vincentio......................Neil McGarry
Lucio................................Clifford M. Allen
Pompey..................................Robert Saoud
Provost.............................Richard LaFrance
Claudio.................................Michael Turvin
Juliet....................................Traci L. Crouch
Mariana/Nun.....................Jennifer Valentine
Friar Thomas/Abhorson...Duncan McCulloch
Mistress Overdone......................Beth Gotha
Barnadine/Froth................John C. Beresford
Escalus.................................Job L. Emerson
Elbow..................................Geoffrey Burns
Boy................................................Eoin Gaj


Spiro Veloudos has tackled "Measure for Measure" head-on, by setting it in a time of desk-phones and lap-tops, then turning loose on it a crew of the best actors Boston has to offer. And with this wealth of acting resources, it becomes a question of Whose Play Is It?

Angelo's of course, right? Diego Arciniegas plays the Deputy Duke in stern, matter-of-fact, contemporary style. He has been given the reins of government to enforce stern punishments --- beheading for the crime of premarital dalliances, for instance --- that the Duke has too long winked at. Yet his first case complicates when the man's sister pleads for mercy, and Angelo offers to overlook his roll in the sack in exchange for a roll in the sack with said sister. This puts it much too baldly, because Arciniegas' wrestling with both the betrayal of his office and the shock of his own lust is as complicated and as interesting an acting exercise as has been seen anywhere. So of course it's Angelo's play.

But then, it's really Isabella's play. Laura Yosowitz accepts all the poetry that Arciniegas eschews, projecting a speechless incredulity at the crass duplicities of men. A novice nun, upright and forthright, she is astounded at Angelo's deal, and even further astounded that her brother would ask her to take it. Tempted on all sides, she refuses to bend and only agrees to complicated subterfuges when they point toward a relatively happy ending with her dignity intact. Her endurance of these trials obviously make her the heroine of the play.

But Neil McGarry plays the Duke, come back from vacation in disguise, as an observing meddler trying at every step to undo all the mischief his semi-abdication brought about. And, since everything eventually works, it's really his play. He starts it truly distraught, practically running from his office in horror at what a dilemma it had become. Later, in a friar's hood, he manipulates everyone as God would marionettes, almost giggling at his own cleverness, delighting eventually at his return to honest humanity. So it must really be God's play after all.

It's not at all the Prevost's play, yet Richard LaFrance plays this ubiquitous servant as eventually in on the joke, sharing with the audience a wry smile as he sees how Duke Vincentio's clever plots will work themselves out.

It's not the play of the comedians either, though Clifford M. Allen's zoot-suited Lucio is all swaggering slanders, Geoffrey Burns' Constable Elbow all pompous linguistic mishaps, and Robert Saoud's Pompey and Beth Gotha's Mistress Overdone plain honest sex-workers blandly cynical about their marks.

It's not the women's play either, though Traci L. Crouch as the condemned Claudio's betrothed and Jennifer Valentine as Angelo's spurned fiancee take their eventual opportunities to stand forth and admit their men flawed, yet beloved nonetheless. And all ends, however untidily, in marriage rather than death.

"Measure for Measure" is a hard play to do, and a hard play to like. On Brent Wachter's fluid set, in Toni Bratton Elliot's recent if not contemporary costumes, and with as modern an eye as the text allows, Spiro Veloudos and his crew have found several new notes and hidden crannies in it that make it fresh and alive.

Love,
===Anon.


"Measure for Measure" (till 25 july)
PUBLICK THEATRE
Christian Herter Park, Soldiers Field Road, BOSTON
1(617)782-5425

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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