MEASURE FOR MEASURE
March 21, 2014
Fiasco Theater made a name for themselves in 2009 with their production of
Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. This six-person ensemble took one of the “problem plays”
that most companies avoid and turned it into a rousing and hilarious production.
Now history is repeating itself as Fiasco takes on one of the darkest comedies
Shakespeare wrote, Measure For Measure.
The audience is greeted by the sight of six free-standing, wheeled doors onstage
when they enter the New Victory Theatre. The elegant and simple design by
Derek McLane allows the actors to transform the stage repeatedly into the several
different locations demanded over the course of the play. But they also work
metaphorically for the play; each door is of a different style and type – one a garden
gate, one a stately wooden door; one a prison door with bars, etc. It brings to mind
who are behind these doors and what happens there.
In addition, the cast of six all play double roles (except Andy Grotelueschen whose
character, The Duke of Vienna, disguises himself in the course of the play, effectively
making it dual role as well). As with the doors, the characters each actor plays often
contrast with each other, pointing up the different strata of society Shakespeare
has written and how they interact behind those doors. Sound heady and confusing?
It’s really not – not the way they play it. Instead, it’s a clear, sharp, and very dark
comedy that asks us to consider morality, justice, mercy, temptation, religion, and
As with Cymbeline, the cast is excellent and bring more than just their acting skills to
bear on the play. They create the music for the show, both vocal and instrumental,
themselves. Among the performers, shout-out’s go to Grotelueschen as Vincentio,
Emily Young as both Isabella, the novice nun and Mistress Overdone, the madam,
and Ben Steinfeld as Lucio, who commanded applause from a matinee audience with
one of the funniest, spasdic falls I’ve ever seen.
Although this run of Measure at the New Victory has closed, I have no doubt it will
find new life in a different venue. This is Shakespeare as
it’s meant to be played.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Kelly Johnston