Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure" is a stark production that strips away all the frills and goes to the heart of the individual characters and the philosophical drama. The set consists of a squarish stage in the center with a black backdrop with big white grotesque figure drawings on it. A pillar is at the rear of the stage with a drawing of a crucified Christ in the same style. The original music by Todd Barton and Christine Williams is hauntingly dissonant and sets he sage for this eerily dark production. Director Libby Appel stages this with only seven actors. The play is one of stark contrasts and each of the actors play their polar opposites. Only Derrick Lee Weeden's Duke plays a single character, but he disguises himself as a monk through most of the play, so he's practically two characters.

Vienna has become a den of vice, and the Duke has chosen the virtuous Angelo and Escalus to rule in his place. Claudio has been sentenced to death for his affair with Julietta. They intend to marry, but have postponed the wedding, and in the meantime she is about to have a baby. Angelo is using Claudio as an example to clean up the rampant vice. Vilma Silva is his sister Isabella who is a novice in a convent. We first meet her in the character of Mistress Overdone, a local prostitute. She's this slinky figure in a skimpy bikini body stocking of fish net. She struts along the front row of the intimate Black Swan, flirting with both patrons and actors. Kevin Kenerly's Claudio is first seen as the black leather clad Pompey, her procurer.

Most of the lighting tends to dark glowing reds, violets, and greens with stark contrasts of black and white, personified, especially by Isabella. She pleads with Angelo to spare Claudio's life, but when he suggests she might like to barter her body in return, she is repulsed. This just makes him more insistent and he throws her to the floor before catching himself, and gives her 24 hours to make her decision. As Angelo digresses further into his plot, he becomes the self-righteous, shadowy Ken Starr type figure, who uses all of his official power to obtain the end he desires in the name of truth and decency. There's nothing decent left about him though, and he resorts to covering his tracks by any means necesary, in this case hastening the execution of Claudio before he can be pardoned and avenge himself for the supposed wrong done to his sister. The Duke, disguised as a monk, takes care of all of this, though, and in the end, each gets in full measure what they have given and true justice, forgiveness, and redemption reign in this riveting production of "Measure for Measure."

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Oregon Shakespeare Festival 98

Henry IV Pt.1 | Cymbeline | Comedy of Errors | Measure for Measure | Touch of the Poet | Sailing to Byzantium
 Midsummer Night's Dream | School for Scandal | Uncle Vanya | OSF Commentary

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