The following article appeared in the
Daily Hampshire Gazette on Tuesday, July 2, 2002.
Supporting cast sustains ‘Measure for Measure’
VINCENT CLEARY, Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 2, 2002 -- AMHERST
- Hampshire Shakespeare Company's 12th annual season opened with "Measure for Measure"
at its bucolic Hartsbrook School site "under thestars" last Wednesday for a 15-performance run. I
saw it the following night, a benefit for the Amherst Cinema Center with a guest speaker.
The skies, which had held off all evening, finally opened halfway through the second act. After a 45-minute rain delay,
the troupe and audience members repaired to the small upstairs stage at Hartsbrook to conclude the play indoors.
Whatever spell Shakespeare had cast earlier was now, alas, broken.
The evening began propitiously. Arthur Kinney, of the Center for Renaissance Studies at the University of Massachusetts,
gave a short, informative introduction that set the stage for the production to follow.
Among the issues raised: Houses of prostitution existed near the Globe Theater, and prostitution is a recurring theme in
"Measure." This is the bard's only play set in Vienna. And if this is a comedy, it is a very dark one.
"Measure for Measure" has a complex plot. This company deserves credit for tackling it In brief, a weak and vacillating
Duke, Vincentio, places Vienna in the hands of his deputy, Angelo, a zealous, and strict interpreter of the law, while he goes
off to a monastery, or so we are led to believe.
Claudio, "a young gentleman," manages to "get with child" his fiancee, Julia, and the penalty for this is death. Angelo, the Angel,
decides Claudio must die. Isabella, Claudio's sister, preparing to enter one of the stirictest convents of the Catholic Church, the
Order of St. Clare, begs the implacable Angelo to spare her brother's life.
At first refusing, Angelo, now having fallen for the lovely Isabella - sex raises its enticing head - agrees to her request, but on one
condition - she must "lie with him."
She refuses until Friar Lodowick, aka the Duke, hatches a plot. Mariana, once engaged to Angelo, will substitute for Isabella and go to
bed with him. This takes place, offstage of course, but the single-minded Angelo decides to kill Claudio anyway.
The Friar now hatches a second plot and substitutes a condemned criminal in Claudio's place. It is Ragozine's head, a not very convincing
store model's, that is brought to the duplicitous Angelo.
How does this all end? This is a comedy, remember, despite the serious themes raised by the play. Let me say that both justice and mercy triumph
"measure for measure," and all is happily, if somewhat unbelievably, resolved.
This reviewer was spoiled by last year's magical "As You Like It," with many of the same cast and same director, Andrew Lichtenberg, involved here.
Last summer, Sandra Blaney and Elaine Qualter helped carry the play.
They are both marvelous when onstage in "Measure" this year, but in reduced roles, especially Blaney as Mariana. Harry Bauld (Touchstone last
summer) is also fine as Angelo, to name just three of a strong supporting cast.
It is the Duke, played by Mark Dean, who must carry this production. He gives us a frenetic and highly mannered Duke/Friar. His performance did
not vary, even when he switched roles. His diction was superb but his performance lacked nuance.
And the Lichtenberg twins, good in "As You Like It" in minor roles, did not have the stage presence required of them in the roles of Claudio
Despite a valiant effort by the spirited cast, I left "Measure for Measure" disappointed. Let's hope the next Lichtenberg effort can
match the high level they attained last year.
"Measure For Measure," directed by Andrew Lichtenberg, runs Wednesday through Sunday and July 10-14 at the Hartsbrook School in Hadley.
Tickets are $12 for general admission, $9 for students and seniors and $6 for children under 18. They are available at: Atticus Bookshop,
Amherst: Beyond Words Bookshop, Northampton; and Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley. For more Information, call 548-8118.