Monday, June 20, 2011

Fun Summer Seaminess

I was fortunate enough to be invited to an "invited dress rehearsal" for Measure for Measure at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. I didn't have to wait on line from 3 AM until 1 PM, and I had a marvelous seat for what proved to be a fine production of a play that is often challenging to pull off.

The play is one of Shakespeare's "Problem Plays." Curiously, this summer, the Public Theatre has decided to produce two of the three "Problem Plays" -- the two plays in all of Shakespeare's canon containing "the bed trick", in which a man thinks he is sleeping with one woman while actually sleeping with another who has come in her stead under the cover of darkness. The two plays ("All's Well that Ends Well" is the second of the two) are being performed in repertory throughout the summer.

It's a curious choice, to offer up those two rather disquieting plays as the Park's summer fare this season. Even tragedies leave the audience more satisfied than upset at the end, whereas the "Problem Plays" are so named because while they fit the genre of romantic comedy, the catharsis they purport to achieve at the end is anything but, and audiences tend to leave feeling like they need a shower. But in for a penny, in for a pound, I suppose. It will be interesting to see how the performers navigate their different roles in the two productions, and it will be interesting to experience back-to-back "Problem Plays."

"Measure for Measure" is skillfully presented under the direction of David Esbjornson. A deconstructed but completely seedy Vienna is artfully and fully realized with the clever set by Scott Pask, and the costumes by Elizabeth Hope Clancy strike the perfect note. But it is the actors in the comedic roles of Pompey (Carson Elrod) and Lucio (Reg Rogers) who steal the show. They are remarkable. I'd wait on line from 3 AM until 1 PM to see them in these roles again.
-Jack Simony

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