forSocial Justice program to eight California State Prisons.
Officially labeled as a comedy, it’s considered by some tobe one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays’ in which the situation a main charactergets into is reflective of a greater societal problem. In Measure forMeasure, it’s the enforcement of law with little mercy.
Judge Vincentio (Patrick Russell) cedes his authority toJudge Angelo (Joseph Patrick O’Malley) in an attempt to avoid responsibilityfor the strict enforcement of the law. Vincentio disguises himself as a friarso he can stick around and see what happens.
Angelo begins immediate enforcement of the laws, closing allthe brothels (except those that cater to the upper crust) and imposing thedeath penalty on those found guilty of fornication. Claudio (Brennan Pickman-Thoon), who hasimpregnated his girlfriend, soon finds himself on death row. He begs his friendLucio (Ariel Zuckerman) to get his sister Isabella (Luisa Frasconi) to leaveher convent and intercede with the judge.
Isabella meets with the judge to plead for her brother’slife. After a day’s consideration, Angelo offers to release Claudio if Isabellagives herself to him. Isabella threatens to expose him, but the smug Angeloknows she will not be believed, “Say what you can, my false o’erweighs yourtrue.”
Working behind the scenes to right the many wrongs in play,Vincentio puts a plan in motion to save the day.
One of Shakespeare’s lesser known and infrequently-producedworks, director Robert Currier has added elements to make the play morecontemporary. The set by Jackson Currier is modeled after San Quentin. Thecostumes by Tammy Berlin are modern. Spoken word sound-bites by LeMar“Maverick” Harrison and picket signs with social justice messages were used tobridge the scenes.Devices like these are often usedto make a play more accessible, but this a case where the show was lesser (andlonger than it needed to be) for some of them.
Performances ranged from the professional to the amateurishwith the best work done by Russell, O’Malley (when you could hear him),Frasconi, Steven Price as advisor Escalus, and Ed Berkeley as Pompey.
Get past the directorial excesses and you’ll find a darklycomic tale of morality, hypocrisy, and law. After all, the play’s the thing.
‘Measure for Measure’ runs through July 21 at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre at Dominican University in San Rafael. Thursday through Saturday evening performances are at 8 pm; the Sunday matinee is at 4 pm.
For more information, go to marinshakespeare.org.