Gritty, raw and absolutely phenomonal: that is Robert Fall’s version of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Set in 1970′s New York in a time of garbage strikes, seedy undergrounds and platform shoes, Falls couples Shakespeare’s problem play with sex, drugs, hypocrisy and moral ambuigity between religion and politics that not only defines today, but 1600′s London, which the play parallels back in the 1600′s.
With a corrupt city at his gates, the Duke of Vienna (James Newcomb) hands his power over to Lord Angelo, played by Jay Whittaker, the equally corrupt politican who makes it his own moral code to enforce long-forgotten codes of chasisty before marriage, which has deadly consequences for all. Claudio (Kevin Fugaro), now condemned to death, finds himself in the hands of his sister, a religiously strict nun, played by Alejandra Escalante, who pleads for the life of her brother to Angelo, unleashing a web of lust, love, deceit, desire and hypocrisy.
Lights up, and one is forced into sensory overload. Designed by Walt Spangler, a stage that recently held plays such as a Christmas Carol is now crowded by iron fences and garbage coupled with writhering bodies, drugs, sex, crusty neon signs. It can only be assumed that the politican sitting on a bed center stage is our corrupt justice system come to smite us. The play can only go down a darker road from there, in the best of ways. With a clever use of pulsing Donna Summer’s music, slow motion walking and trick lighting, Angelo takes the helm, the play becoming rapid pace, scene after scene flying, left and right.Emotions are scattered, stories are skewed (with help from the Duke, now a priest with a mere lift of a pair of glasses; suspension of disbelief, anyone?) and suddenly everything halts; Angelo seems to have fallen in love, or lust. How will this affect Claudio, his heart’s desires dearest brother? What about a secret lover, a twisted past? A missing Duke?
Measure for Measure holds nothing back when it comes to forcing you to see exactly what is happening on stage: corruption. Angelo has fallen in lust, but can he make exceptions to his laws for his one and only love? Will he strike a deal with Isabella and let Claudio go, or crush religion with the hand of power and government? Where can one truly draw the line between moral hypocrisy and social justice?
All can be explained, and more, in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, directed by Robert. Measure for Measure is running at the Goodman Theatre from March 9th until April 14th, 2013 at 170 N. Dearborn Chicago, IL. To reserve tickets, www.goodmantheatre.org.