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Measure for Measure at Stone Soup Theatre
Measure for Measure at Stone Soup Theatre
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Measure for Measure
Directed by Beth Raas
Stone Soup Theatre
Through October 19


Shakespeare's Measure for Measure is being performed by Ghost Light Theatricals in the tiny Stone Soup Theatre (on Stone Way, of course). This is a large cast that has to work in a very small stage area, so it takes all the ingenuity of the cast and director and all the forbearance of the audience to manage the flow of action. They manage pretty well.

The play is kind of a comedy, since it ends with everyone (almost) living happily ever after, which is supposed to be a hallmark of Shakespeare's comedies. But it's on the soberly happy side, so it skirts the edge of the tragedies. Duke Vicentio likes to find out what people really say about him, so he disguises himself and disappears into the common throngs for periods of time. This time, he leaves the rule of the land to his servant, Angelo, a sort of master chamberlain, and takes the role of a priest.

Angelo is a conservative guy who dislikes how laws have become suggestions and decides that laws should stand up for themselves again, and he starts arresting people who break them and sentencing them to hang. The unfortunate Claudio gets arrested for making his girlfriend pregnant, even though he intends to marry her. He is to hang, unless his church-novitiate sister, Isabella, can intervene with her goodness and convince Angelo to let Claudio go. Angelo falls for Isabella and makes a dastardly offer: he will let Claudio go if Isabella has sex with him. Isabella finds this fake priest, really the duke, and he convinces her to agree to the proposition, but he will have Angelo's ex-fiancee take Isabella's place, since Mariana is still in love with Angelo. Angelo beds Mariana, thinking it's Isabella (in the dark) and still orders Claudio killed. So, the duke intervenes and stops the execution. Hence, the comedy element.

David van Wert as Angelo is suitably stern and self-righteous, and ominously evil when threatening Isabella. Daniela Melgar as Isabella keeps herself pure in intention and earnest in her emotions. There are other mostly bit parts that standout, with Evan Woltz playing a variety of clods in a very funny way, Molly Mahar as Angelo's sister (though that is typically a male role), Matt Lyman as a master, and Jeff Pierson as a sarcastic troublemaker, Lucio, who is the one guy who doesn't get off well in the end. The large role of Duke Vicentio, by John-Paul Wilson, is less stellar, with Wilson speaking the lines, but losing a fair amount of the meaning of them in the speaking.

Costumes by Allen Mann are modern, but well-suited, and Derek Van Heel creates a spare, clean set, but never before has Stone Soup looked as good, since the walls and floors are painted into the set and even some of the lights are covered for effect. Light designer Rob Bergquist doesn't have many lights to work with, but works them as well as anyone can work eight lights. It's a measured effort, in a challenging space. The story is clear, and you'll just have to forgive Shakespeare if it seems impossible for anyone to not recognize the duke as the priest, and if it seems impossible to love someone as vile as Angelo. The play was written a long time ago and it's not going to be changed now.

For more information, go to www.ghostlighttheatricals.org or call 800-838-8006 or go to www.brownpapertickets.com.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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