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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shakespeare in the Park: Measure for Measure

It was an absolutely perfect evening to be outside on Saturday when my colleague Noelle and I went to see Measure for Measure at Shakespeare in the Park.
Unfortunately, they are a little rabid about not letting you take photos, even of yourselves and the empty stage. (Leigh Ann and I learned this at "Love, Loss and What I Wore," when the usher stood over us and made us delete the photos we'd taken of our our Playbill as we waited for the show to begin. We were on the front row, and our knees were touching the stage, so we thought the moment deserved to be preserved! I understand not taking photos during a performance, but bah humbug!)

So, the photo above is from the internet. Noelle and I had way better seats up front. Plus, we didn't have to brave the line. (They start giving out free tickets at 1 p.m., so people line up early in the morning. My mom did it when Leigh Ann was interning here in 2002.) The bank is the major sponsor, and Noelle knew who to ask for tickets. Score!
Here's the Playbill synopsis:
Justice, mercy and political corruptness are at the center of Shakespeare's dark comedy Measure for Measure. A corrupt governor offers the beautiful young nun, Isabella, a choice: her virtue or her brother's life.

The story quickly pulled me in. There was, however, much suspension of belief required to believe the handsome duke could "disguise himself" by pulling a friar's hood over his head and donning a pair of glasses. However, given the whole Superman/Clark Kent thing he had going on, (admittedly more of the latter in the photo above), I was game to play along.

Isabella, played by Danai Guria, was sensational. (My friend Page will remember her from the film "The Visitor," not sure if anyone besides us saw/loved it.) I almost got chills when she spoke this line, as she is being set up for a sort of Elizabethan-era sexual harassment:

O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
The most amusing performance came from Carson Elrod as Pompey. I couldn't quite figure out if he was a gigolo or a pimp, but he played his role with a sarcastic, flamboyant flair. This production would have gotten the attention of even the most disinterested ninth-grade boys when Pompey was arrested for having a dildo in his possession.
Perhaps my favorite line came from a long speech about the way we allow fear to hold us back:  Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.

And I loved this one too: Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.
I wish I could rewind to the "Shakespeare After 1600" class I took in college and study this play again. (Traumatic flashback: I actually made a D on that midterm because I was taking Faulkner the same semester and couldn't keep up with the reading.) Anyway, I find it fascinating and delightful to see how certain themes are truly timeless, and I loved the way this play made me think about power, mercy, temptation, desire, corruption, virtue, order and restraint.

I left wanting more...and fortunately I'll get it, because I have tickets for "All's Well that Ends Well" on Monday!


Dee Stephens said...

That's insane about the pictures. Can't believe that the one guy made you sure you deleted photos in that last show.

Page said...

I DO remember her from The Visitor. That movie was darn near perfect. Can't believe you got to see her in person.

Mandy said...

This post makes me miss teaching Shakespeare a lot!!