Encore Michigan

‘Measure’ encounters problems with challenging production

ReviewShakespeare June 21, 2013 Bridgette Redman

Pigeon Creek Shakespeare continues to deserve commendation for having the courage to tackle the Bard’s more difficult plays.

“Measure for Measure” is considered a problem play for many reasons. The overall mood is far less comedic than his comedies, but nor is it a tragedy. In a play dealing with the hypocrisy of the law and the foolishness of trying to legislate sex, perhaps a comedy was the only safe way for Shakespeare to present his satire.

Pigeon Creek had some opening night struggles with the play in which a straight-and-narrow governor fills in for an absent Duke and is ready to execute people on technicalities as well as close down all the houses of ill-repute.

Scott Wright as the Duke and Sean Kelley as Angelo, his deputy, were well-matched in their roles. Wright travels through Vienna disguised as a friar to see how his deputy rules. He is sympathetic and committed to his storytelling. In this ensemble-directed piece, he ensures that all his movement is motivated, and plots and schemes convincingly, always trying to protect his people.

Kelley is villainous in his hypocrisy and unbending in the way he performs his legal duties. While he allows Angelo a few moments of self-examination, he presents the audience with a very believable hypocrite.

In a lovely moment of subtext, Kelley and Wright quietly establish the difference between their characters in the first scene. Wright enters and scatters papers and books on the desk and fumbles through them handing out warrants and orders. When Angelo takes over, Kelley quickly straightens the desk and is fastidious about keeping it in order and his warrants well folded and organized throughout the play.

Claire Mahave’s Lucio is entertaining, as is Kathleen Bode’s Pompey. Both clowns add the comedy to the show while moving the plot forward. Mahave provided great physical contrast to the others on the stage with her constantly tilting movement, giving the impression she might fall forward like a board at any time.

Kat Hermes’ Isabella carried a lion’s share of the play, but she was lacking in levels and not very interesting or sympathetic for most of the play. In her first scene, the circling of the stage with Lucio became distracting and too obvious a device for working a thrust stage. It became a scene about seeing whether they would hit their opposite marks on time than one in which Lucio was successfully convincing Isabella to plead for her brother’s life.

Nor was there much chemistry in the one scene where Isabella and Steven Douglas Wright’s Claudio meet and she tells him to prepare for death. Claudio lacks the urgency and seems merely tired and fatigued and a little sad that he might soon be executed.

Kimi Griggs played a wonderful Provost who was torn between duty and compassion, law and what was right.

The story is a tricky one, and Pigeon Creek raises many questions worth thinking about. They open the show with a reading of proclamations about the theater – all of which they proceed to break during their production. It sets the stage well for the examination of whether foolish laws should be enforced and what happens when laws are ignored.

“Measure for Measure” is filled with the usual tricks of comedy – from mistaken identities, marriages, and bawdy clowns. But the threat of executions, the enforced marriages and the emotional and legal blackmail makes it much heavier. What does one do when the judge is guilty of the same crimes as the condemned? Which matters more – one’s honor, or the life of a brother?

This production is not one of the finest in Pigeon Creek’s history, but they are competent in their handling of a rarely done show.

Week of 9/19/2022

Current Shows

  • All
  • mon
  • tue
  • wed
  • thu
  • fri
  • sat
  • sun