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Measure for Measure                  Georgia Shakespeare Festival, 1998

Jim Farmer - On Stage

The centerpiece of Georgia Shakespeare Festival’s summer season is undoubtedly Measure for Measure, the still-topical story of corruption and sexual politics.

In Venice, the Duke (Tim McDonough) decides to leave his deputy, Angelo (John Ammerman), in charge while he goes away. Angelo quickly lets the responsibility go to his head and sets up a law banning adultery.  Claudio (Brad Sherill) is quickly arrested and sentenced to death by Angelo for having sex with his wife-to-be, Juliet (Park Krausen).

After hearing of this plight, Claudio’s sister Isabella (Janice Akers) comes to Angelo and pleads mercy.  Angelo refuses to waver, but finds himself oddly attracted to Isabella.  He eventually strikes up a settlement—if she sleeps with him, he will free her brother.  Meanwhile, the Duke has been masquerading as a friar and has been a first-person witness to the goings-on.

When Push-Push Theatre did Measure for Measure this spring, it was lighter, sexier, shorter and frankly, hipper.  But this version is truer to the source—more menacing and far less jovial.  Director Tim Ocel gives the Bard’s work some fresh energy of his own, creating numerous haunting images.

What's so resonant is how valid Shakespeare’s work comes across today—the lies and villainy could be taken from today's headlines. Eric Sinkkonen’s cold, steely sets give off an appropriately authoritarian mood, with prisoners shutoff in jail cells and the other characters isolated from each other.

The ensemble cast is dead-on, with all the leads connecting.  The confrontations between Akers and Ammerman are harrowing.  Even the smaller roles are aces—Carolyn Cook as Angelo’s ex-lover Mariana, Kristi Wedermeyer as the (usually male) Provost, Heidi Cline as the bawdy Mistress Overdone, and Chris Kayser, especially slimy as Claudio’s friend Lucio.

Measure for Measure is running in repertory with Moliere’s The Miser and Henry IV.  Yes, it’s three hours long, but it’s time well spent. If you’ve never seen a Georgia Shakespeare Festival production, this is a dandy intro.

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