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.