The Victorians thought that each “translation” of a play served to enrich rather than rob the original source of the adaptation. This well-acted and well-produced adaptation maintains a faithful dialogue with Shakespeare’s original work, while adding an innovative and contemporary touch to this profound and complex comedy.
The play is framed by the soft lighting of the Baker Commons, which adds a collegiate feel to complement the well-manufactured theatrical atmosphere of the makeshift stage. The decadent couches, elevated chairs and blood-red carpet around the center stage lend themselves to an overall ambience reminiscent of a local or community theater, so the audience does not feel far removed from the action. Excellent management of light, sound, costuming and set throughout the play serve to accentuate the intensity of the performance and deserve special recognition for tact and subtlety.
The performance itself parallels the tone of the Great Bard’s original lyrics, vacillating between dark cynicism and outrageously offensive humor. In Victorian times, this play was considered painful and shocking and antagonized traditional sensibilities. While it may fail to shock contemporary viewers, the provocative edge that pushes this play above a theatrical exercise provides enough added value to make this performance well worth the price of entrance. Sex toys and a steamy pole dance are excellent, even if slightly forced, additions, and the lewd puns and metaphors of the original piece are humorously delivered well, though their shock value has eroded.
Measure for Measure’s actors and actresses overwhelmingly turn in a talented and well-rehearsed performance, delivering Shakespeare’s lines with uncanny experience and verve. Ian Mauzy (Baker College ’14) delivers a tremendous performance as Duke Vicentio, breathing life into a truly complex character. Mauzy handles the profound and resonant motifs of mercy, justice and hypocrisy equitably with sharp, concealed wit, compassion and even a self-aware sense of personal fallacy. Mauzy sketches for the audience a multi-dimensional creature which must at least reflect Shakespeare’s vision for such a central yet divisive force in the play. Kevin Mullin (Jones College freshman) delivers an intense performance as the corrupted Angelo and masterfully presents the tortured duality of his both tragic and detestable
Yena Han (Duncan College sophomore), in her role as Mistress Overdone, adds an artistic and provocative edge to the play with a performance that would have shocked Victorian audiences. While the pole dancing provides a fun and necessary extra, the pole itself does not quite earn its position in the front and center of the stage, as it is rarely used throughout the performance. Max Payton (Wiess College senior) and Kathryn Hokamp (Martel College junior) provide lighthearted comic relief as Lucio and Pompey, respectively, and inject much-needed comedy into a play that often alarmingly balances on the edge of tragedy.
Overall, director Joseph Lockett, a Hanszen College alumnus, offers an admirable presentation of one of Shakespeare’s darker comedies. Measure for Measure is a faithful and extravagant mesh of proud literary prose and Shakespearean tradition, simultaneously colluding with a touch of comically licentious avant-garde revision.