Archive for January 2015

Seattle Shakespeare Company’s “Measure for Measure”

Ah how weak we mortals are, especially when driven by lust. “Measure for Measure” is the comedy that explores the issue of social conventions versus personal desires. And this production does it with panache. Directed by Desdemona Chiang it’s a nimble take on law and order vs. human sexuality.

Here the Duke of Vienna, worried about moral decline during his permissive tenure, leaves his city in the hands of the priggish Angelo whom, he hopes, will bring back virtue. Angelo accepts his task with alacrity, enforcing the law condemning fornicators to the death penalty.

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Cindy Im as Isabella and Moses Yim as Claudio. Photo by John Ulman.

Among the first to be arrested is Claudio who considers himself too young and too in love to die. He implores his sister Isabella (a novitiate about to become a nun) to intercede with Angelo on his behalf. This paragon of purity makes her case only to be told by the salivating Angelo that, if she allows him to deflower her, he’ll save her brother. The virtuous Isabella can’t do that despite her love for Claudio. Fortunately the Duke, returns to the city disguised as a blind monk, learns of this outrage, and, in true noble fashion, puts all aright.

The acting here is memorable. It’s lovely to watch the highly principled, somewhat reptilian Angelo (Bradford Farwell) struggle with his conscience and his rapacious desire for Isabella. Throughout the play he gloriously combines a sanctimonious facade with unscrupulous behavior. But then, at the very end the decision was made to have him show almost no emotion. That didn’t work for me.

Cindy Im as poor Isabella is wrenching as she pleads with Angelo and struggles with her own conscience. Watch her as she moves from anguish to anger. Tim Gouran does a star turn as Lucio, the clown like figure whose asides and subtle gestures brighten up the stage. David Anthony Lewis as the Duke exudes power and makes a most realistic blind man

You’ll immediately know what you’re in for with the sexy opening scene and its whorehouse lighting (Andrew D. Smith). Both the innocence and the bawdy nature of the play are reinforced by Christine D. Tschirgi’s costumes.

Though this is considered one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays,” it’s one of my favorites. And this is one of the best productions of it that I’ve yet seen.

Through Feb. 1, by Seattle Shakespeare Company, at The Center Theater in The Armory, Seattle Center, (206 733-8222 or www.seattleshakespeare.org).