By Madeleine Barbeau
Could it be possible that Shakespeare is a supporter of women’s suffrage? CCPA recently opened the O’Malley Theatre’s season of shows with the Shakespeare classic, “Measure for Measure”. The play is set in Vienna where Duke Vincentio rules. The Duke decides to step away from power for a little while so that his right-hand man Lord Angelo can restore order in the Duke’s people. Lord Angelo quickly assumes his position and arrests a young man named Claudio for the crime of fornication.
Claudio’s sister, the nun Isabel, gets word of this and pays Angelo a visit to convince him to release her brother. Angelo offers the virtuous nun a proposal: If Isabel agrees to sleep with him, Angelo will consider releasing Claudio. The Duke, disguised as a monk, devises a plan with Isabel to put everyone in their rightful place.
The cast was led by Conor Jordon as the clever and cunning Duke; Abby Conlon, who portrayed the wise and virtuous nun Isabel; and Ian Slater, who played the devious Lord Angelo with a burning intensity. Two comedic highlights of the show were Maria Alexandra as Mistress Overdone, a witty and tactful prostitute and Claire Sundbye’s one scene as the grumpy, hairy prisoner named Barnadine.
The cast gave an intense performance that they also made easy to understand despite the old English that Shakespeare writes in. The arena-like set was designed by Michael Lasswell and was constructed by Steve Kruse. The team turned the O’Malley Theatre’s usual three-sided audience house into a four-sided house and featured a checkered platform atop the stage that was underlit. Julie Mack’s lighting design was dramatic and featured enrapturing, sharp filters. The costumes were simple and took on a modern feel that helped the audience connect with director Joel Fink’s contemporary take on the show.
In light of the recent #MeToo movement, Joel Fink moved the Shakespeare piece to a powerful conclusion in which the Duke hands over his power to Isabel, who he believes is better suited to ruling fairly than he is. In the final moment before the lights dim, we see the nun and the Duke switch positions. Isabel now stands above the Duke as he moves towards the exit. Isabel covers her mouth, in shock of where she now stands, and the lights fade to black. Mr. Fink using Shakespeare’s words to give a woman the final spotlight. It’s brief, but it’s progress. Overall, this production was chilling, provocative, and a great modern reinvention of a classic.
4 out of 5 torches