Performing Arts: Theater
March 21, 2014
Fiasco Theater made a name for themselves in 2009 with their production of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. This six-person ensemble took one of the “problem plays” that most companies avoid and turned it into a rousing and hilarious production. Now history is repeating itself as Fiasco takes on one of the darkest comedies Shakespeare wrote, Measure For Measure.

The audience is greeted by the sight of six free-standing, wheeled doors onstage when they enter the New Victory Theatre. The elegant and simple design by Derek McLane allows the actors to transform the stage repeatedly into the several different locations demanded over the course of the play. But they also work metaphorically for the play; each door is of a different style and type – one a garden gate, one a stately wooden door; one a prison door with bars, etc. It brings to mind who are behind these doors and what happens there.

In addition, the cast of six all play double roles (except Andy Grotelueschen whose character, The Duke of Vienna, disguises himself in the course of the play, effectively making it dual role as well). As with the doors, the characters each actor plays often contrast with each other, pointing up the different strata of society Shakespeare has written and how they interact behind those doors. Sound heady and confusing? It’s really not – not the way they play it. Instead, it’s a clear, sharp, and very dark comedy that asks us to consider morality, justice, mercy, temptation, religion, and society.

As with Cymbeline, the cast is excellent and bring more than just their acting skills to bear on the play. They create the music for the show, both vocal and instrumental, themselves. Among the performers, shout-out’s go to Grotelueschen as Vincentio, Emily Young as both Isabella, the novice nun and Mistress Overdone, the madam, and Ben Steinfeld as Lucio, who commanded applause from a matinee audience with one of the funniest, spasdic falls I’ve ever seen.

Although this run of Measure at the New Victory has closed, I have no doubt it will find new life in a different venue. This is Shakespeare as it’s meant to be played.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Kelly Johnston

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