The following article appeared in the
Amherst Bulletin on Friday, June 21, 2002.
Gags in good measure
By DAN LAMOTHE
HAMPSHIRE Shakespeare Company opens its summer "Shakespeare Under the Stars" season with a fresh take on the comedy "Measure for Measure." The 16th-century play brings to life political and sex scandals that could have been lifted from today's headlines.
"It's a very funny version of the play," said Cindy Mathews, assistant stage manager for the production. "It's one of Shakespeare's so-called problem comedies and the director, Andy Lichtenberg, doesn't let any gag slip."
"Anybody who does it has problems to deal with in terms of what is going to be emphasized," Lichtenberg said. "We're stressing small interpersonal relationships between the characters in the play."
His cast agrees. "There's a stress on the relationships between characters and their interaction with each other," said Elaine Qualter, a UMass graduate student who plays Isabella in the show.
"Measure for Measure" revolves around a conflict created when the Duke of Vienna, played by Mark Dean, hands control of his realm over to Lord Angelou, played by Harry Bauld.
"The duke is a young, innocent ruler who's kind of in over his head," Dean said. "He makes a lot of mistakes along the way. Some of those mistakes are comic and some are more consequential. He kind of blunders around himself trying to figure things out."
With Angelou in control, Claudio, played by Lichtenberg's son, Nick, is sentenced to die when his fiancee turns up in a family way.
Claudio's sister, a novitiate nun named Isabella, begs Angelou to spare her brother's life. Angelou agrees, with one catch: To save Claudio, Isabella has to give up her virginity to Angelou.
Meanwhile, side plots abound involving a host of amusing characters. Drew Lichtenberg, Nick's twin brother, plays Lucio, a wiseacre whose bawdy humor keeps getting him into trouble. Paco Tolson plays Barnardine, a murderer who is almost constantly drunk. A dark, tongue-in-cheek executioner is played by Steve Angel, and a goofy provost by James Hannigan. Played over-the-top, these cartoony characters make for much of the play's humor.
All performances will take place at the company's new summer residence at the Hartsbrook School at 193 Bay Road in Hadley on an outdoor stage.
With the stage set on the edge of a hill, the backdrop includes the Mount Holyoke Range and grazing cows. The acoustics are amazing. Actors have no need for a microphone, thanks to the way that the school is built around the stage. Performers can be clearly heard over 100 feet away.
"There's great outdoor acoustics at the site," said Ed Dunn, the producer for the summer series. "I'm very excited, it should be a great season."
"Measure for Measure" opens on Wednesday, June 26, at 7 p.m., with performances Wednesdays through Sundays until July 14. A June 27 performance will benefit the Amherst Cinema Center. Tickets for that night are $35, including a catered reception and discussion of the play by New England Renaissance Center Director Arthur Kinney.
All other nights, tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for students and seniors, and $6 for children under the age of 18. For ticket information call (413) 498-2210.