Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Style Weekly: "Measure for Measure" is "Bracing" and "Gratifying"

From this week's Style Weekly:

Quick-Change Artists
Actors make the most of multiple roles in “Measure for Measure.”
by David Timberline

Richmond Shakespeare Theatre’s practice of “doubling” — having each of its actors play two or three roles in a show — has always led to some interesting juxtapositions. Its current production of “Measure for Measure” may present the most fascinating and artistically rewarding combinations yet.

In this complex consideration of moral gray areas, Andrew Hamm portrays both the strict Duke’s deputy, Angelo, who must crack down on the reprobates of Vienna, and the unfortunate gentleman Claudio, who gets cracked down upon. Both of these characters are fraught with inner conflict, and it’s a tribute to Hamm’s considerable skills that he is able to make each man’s trajectory riveting and distinct. He even throws in for good measure an amusing comic turn as an elderly constable.

Hearing that Claudio has been sentenced to die, his novitiate sister, Isabella, leaves the nunnery to plead for his life. Angelo makes her a devil’s bargain: If she sleeps with him, he’ll free her brother. As Isabella, Liz Blake is convincingly enchanting and proves her acting mettle in the extreme emotional rollercoaster her character must ride.

Spurring the plot into greater complication is Vincentio, the Duke (David White), who disguises himself as a friar to spy on the proceedings. White doesn’t quite do enough to differentiate the Duke from the pimp Pompey, but he salvages his performance in some exceptional final scenes.

In other supporting roles, Julie Phillips makes her biggest impression as the bawdy Mistress Overdone, and while John Moss’ near-farcical take on the opportunistic Lucio sometimes seems to belong in a different play, it’s also consistently hilarious.

As is befitting one of Shakespeare’s “problem” plays, this production has some issues with the mix of comic and melodramatic elements. But the overall effect is a bracing — and gratifying — journey down a murky moral path.

Great to hear such praise from Style Weeky! And our review appears directly beneath the review of Doubt, making this "Nun Week" at Style.

If I may be so bold, I need to point out that this show has grown tremendously in the two weeks since the Thursday preview that Mr. Timberline saw. All five actors have really deepened their connection to their roles. If you saw the show early, it's worth coming back to see it again.

There are only two more weeks of Measure for Measure. Don't miss this show!


A. Wiles said...

To the entire cast:

I was one of the students in the audience last night (2/21/08), and I was very sad to have had to leave before the talk-back session (if only we'd known about today's 2-hour delay then!).

Thank you all so much for the quirky, ridiculously funny, really touching performance that is RST's Measure for Measure. We discussed the performance in class today in relation to our reading the play, and all of the students in attendance (Shakespeare fans and otherwise) agreed that each actor brought something to the performance that we would never have imagined on our own from the text alone.

Those students that had been to other RST shows and truly enjoyed them remarked that this may have been the best yet.

I'm sure you've all heard it all before, but it can't hurt to hear it all again, can it? Thank you again on behalf of Mr. Waller's AP Lit students for a fantastic performance.

-A. Wiles

Frank Creasy said...

What a beautifully and energetically performed production. I so thoroughly enjoyed Saturday evening's performance, and of course for myself and my good friend Suzanne Ankrum it was a special treat to see our "Twelfth Night" fellows Liz, Dave and Andrew back again in the space where we presented that very special production one year ago. Great to see so many other theatre folks in the audience, including my "As You Like It" cast members Julia Rigby and Patrick Bromley. We'll surely draw inspiration for our production from this one!

For an actor seeing friends in a production, it's always a bit of a juggling act to distance one's personal friendship and acquaintance with the onstage performers from the characters and story they are presenting. By the middle of Act 1, however, it was no longer an issue for me - I'd become wrapped up in the performance and elocution of the text, recognizing so many emotional touchpoints I enjoyed as presented by the outstanding performances. A wonderful job all around folks, thanks for a beautiful evening.

Andrew Hamm said...

It was great having so many friends in the audience. A whole Twelfth Night reunion, no less!