Last Friday I saw Measure for Measure at the Duke on 42nd Street theater. (Thanks to "Theatre for a New Audience", the adult tickets were 75 dollars whereas the kid tickets were only 10.) Shakespeare's problematic, semi-tragic comedy was directed by Arin Arbus and starring Jefferson Mays as the good Duke of Vienna and Alfredo Narcisco as Lucio.
The play was done with a minimal set, but this did not in any way take away from the play; on the contrary, it brought out many of the better qualities (it forced you to look at the meaning of justice and mercy for certain people rather than a group, as opposed to focusing on the effects of a big set) in the play.
The Duke (among others) was very good (naturally, being British), because he didn’t play the stereotypical role of a confident duke getting the lowdown on his subjects. But when Lucio started trashing him to his face, instead of calmly taking it in, he lost it. He began to yell at Lucio rather than just let him ramble. He got very heated and stood in his face. And speaking of getting heated, the Lucio demonstrated just the opposite of that. He was a very cool character throughout the play, showing how a real ‘playa’ should act. He was extremely subtle, but he was very good when other people were talking, because his reactions weren’t exaggerated. He was very good with small movements.
Another good performance was the provost (Graham Winton), though he had many lines cut (and some given to Lucio). He was a big guy, yet still begged convincingly for Isabel’s cause. He displayed well the fact that strength did not mean brute mentality. The Angelo was very good and brought a real fire to the mix, because when he was on stage he just radiated authority. The Pompey (John Keating) was impressive because he resembled a Simpson’s character and he was coupled well with John Christopher Jones as the constable. Together they had the audience in stitches.
But--as in every play--there was a weak link. What was very real was the dilemma between Isabel (Elizabeth Waterson) and Claudio (Leroy McClain.) but what was unreal was lack of passion between the two. Mr. McClain wasn’t actually that bad. He did not have a beautifully clear voice, but he did do a good job portraying the fear of death and being torn between his want of a holy life for his sister and his unwillingness to leave Juliet and his son behind. But the Isabel was nothing short of a wreck. She had no idea how to act outside of just speaking lines.
She had very long arms, which accented the fact that she had no clue what her hands should be doing when she was speaking. She didn’t just hand them at her sides, but she didn’t use them to assist her lines. Instead she clasped them in front of her awkwardly. And her arms weren’t the only problem. She spoke with little emotion and even less hope. She spoke in a slightly monotonic voice witch positively radiated defeat.
But all in all The Duke on 42nd street’s production of Measure for Measure was a good way to display the moral dilemma of human kind.
Special thanks to Bruce Cohen at Theatre for a New Audience for the photos.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
The reviews for the BAM's The Tempest in Brooklyn are good but they don’t say that it’s a real classic. With Christian Camarago as Ariel and Stephen Dillane as Prospero, Charles Isherwood reports that “When Prospero rises to signal the start of the show, putting on his magical cloak and a belt of fraying feathers, it is with a palpable sense of resignation-- a book-bound professor called reluctantly away from his task”
Though heavily cut, the play was not so heavily cut that the play was unrecognizable and confusing-as I fear the Richard II I'm going to see in a couple weeks will be, having had parts added into it from another play. The Prospero was powerful and had a very clear voice and great enunciation, but he did not have such a good stage presence. The Ariel was ok but they cut many of her lines so she did not have a chance to really perform. She is a fantastic physical actor but she did not deliver her lines with enough passion in some cases like when she begged for freedom and when she talked about the witch who had captured her before Prospero arrived on the island. Another very strong character was the Caliban (Brad Wilson) who did well with the beast part but also portrayed the sadness and futility of the character. When Ariel began to sing and Caliban said that the island was full of mysterious noises, he brought a very strong sense of sadness but also of a slight curiosity and longing. The Ferdinand did everything well but nothing extraordinary. The Miranda left much to be desired, because she not only slurred her words but did not seem to know what to do with herself when other people were talking. The Alonso (Paul Bangola), Sebastian (Julia Keimach) and Antonio (Josh Zeitlin) were all pretty good and had some moments that had the audience laughing hard. The only actor that really ‘caught my eye’ was Elizabeth Swanson as Gonzalo. She showed the good side people where she raised hope that Ferdinand was still alive and tried to cheer up the king. She brought a very cheery attitude to the mix and was a good, solid physical actor with good annunciation. The Tranculo and Stephano were very funny and they were fantastic physical actors. All in all this was a very good performance for what it was, with a good set and lighting, ok costumes and good direction.
It's weird but slightly refreshing to see students perform a play after having seen professionals do so many. The fact that all of the cast members were young brought a strange sweetness to even the most detestable characters.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I have seen five live performances of Shakespeare's plays so far; Hamlet, Macbeth, Much
about Nothing, Love’s Labour’s Lost and As You Like It. I will soon see Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Henry IV and Richard II. By the end of 2013 I plan to have seen every Shakespeare play with my Dad. It may be a long shot but it is quite possible, and even if we can't do it in three years we will eventually get it done. The works of Kenneth Branagh have really gotten me into Shakespeare. His direction is genius, and in As You Like It and Hamlet especially he really combines old fashion Shakespeare with modern day action movies. Branagh is great for introducing kids of any age to the works of Shakespeare. Ado