BWW Previews: MEASURE FOR MEASURE at ENSEMBLE THEATRE COMPANY
This fall, Ensemble Theater Company opens their season with one of Shakespeare's most unusual plays, Measure for Measure. Considered somewhat of an outlier amongst the Shakespeare anthology because it doesn't fit neatly into either the comedy or tragedy category in the traditional sense, this piece leaves room for a wide range of interpretation. In Ensemble's production, director Jonathan Fox intends to acknowledge the darker aspects of the plot--the power struggle and toxic gender dynamics--that exist within even the most comedic moments of the show.
Set in a contemporary, internet-based world of surveillance and mistrust, these characters' plights in Vienna are shown to be (unfortunately) timeless in their significant parallels to issues we still manage today. The Duke of Vienna, off on governmental business, leaves the town in the charge of Angelo, a staunchly conservative judge. The timing of Angelo's temporary rule is unfortunate for Claudio, who has gotten his betrothed pregnant. This deviation from Angelo's unyielding moral code lands Claudio in prison with a death sentence. Claudio's sister, a young nun named Isabella, pleads with the judge for her brother's life, and is extended an offer: Angelo will set Claudio free in exchange for Isabella's virginity. A series of deceptions ensue in an elaborate attempt to save both Isabella and Claudio, and expose Angelo's depravity.
Shakespeare's story of powerful men exploiting their authority seems less outlandish with each modern headline about abuse and harassment, especially in terms of the power differential between the genders. Lily Gibson, who plays Isabella, describes the play as "almost disturbingly modern," and Richard Baird, who plays Angelo, calls Measure for Measure an examination of human nature and how power corrupts. "Particularly in light of the #metoo movement," he says, "this play isn't just relevant--it's true."
Baird also calls Angelo one of Shakespeare's greatest hypocrites, referring to the judge's austere sense of morality despite his sexual appetites. Ensemble's Measure for Measure will be Baird's 50th Shakespearean production, and his third time playing Angelo. Gibson, the on the other hand, is enjoying her first foray into playing with the Bard. "Isabella is an incredibly complex character," she says. "She's an educated, idealistic young woman with aspirations for her spiritual life..., but she has very little experience with the dark side of life. I like that Shakespeare allows us to see this character tested to the very core of her beliefs--she discovers an undeniable strength and resilience."
The constantly scrutinized and always shifting line between decency and degeneracy gives Measure for Measure the potential to offer timely social representation. And, like resolution for the problems with today's culture, the answer isn't easily revealed. "The play doesn't wrap itself up in a pretty package at the end," says Baird. "You're left with questions." Measure for Measure also features Ak Murtadha, Trevor Peterson, Brian Ibsen, Matthew Floyd Miller, Tim McManus, Paul Sandberg, Paige Tautz, Robert Lesser, and Tiffany Story.
Low Cost Previews: October 3 & 4 at 8:00pm
Runs: October 5 at 8:00pm - Sunday, October 20, 2019
Wednesdays - Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 2:00pm and 7:00pm
For tickets; www.etcsb.org