Shakespeare’s renowned works have been loved by audiences for centuries. Though they were written in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the themes and morals of his plays are still relevant today. Theatre Fairfield produced its rendition of “Measure for Measure” this past weekend using the lens of the punk rock era, showing that Shakespeare’s plays connect with people from across history.

Before the start of the play, some members of the cast interacted with members of the audience by inviting them to graffiti the stage backdrop with them, as at this time period, graffiti was a huge part of the culture and tagging of buildings. The set design itself was very chaotic, but that did not take away from the action happening on stage. Rather, it fit nicely with the costumes and punk theme that they were aiming for.

The costumes were cleverly done, with Isabella having a locked chastity belt, Pompey’s vest decorated with interlocking gender symbols and Mistress Overdone’s ensemble as over the top as she was. Her outfit was my favorite, with leather boots that laced up to the thighs and a large fur coat that conveyed her haughty attitude and character; the actor, Brendan McNamara ‘17, did a wonderful job with portraying the brothel owner in a cross-gender casting.

Instead of an elevated stage, the audience was eye level with the performers. This posed a problem when it came to the blocking used during the scenes. The actors and actresses did a great job at trying to make sure their back was never to an audience member for too long, but they could not be visible to all audience members at all times.

There are a few moments I could think of when I was able to see the facial expressions of the actors that other side could not, which affected how I viewed the scene. It is unfortunate that it was missed by those sitting opposite of me. However, barring the occasions when the actors’ backs were to the audience, the delivery and timing of the lines was seamless.

I have mixed feelings about the pantomime performance in the beginning of the play; I understand how it served to introduce the characters and an important trait or two, but it just left me feeling confused and apprehensive about the rest of the performance.

Once the actual dialogue began, the performance and pacing picked up. The witty Shakespearean lines were lost on some of the audience, but the more crude ones were understood with the help of sexual gestures by the cast, which the audience responded well to.

There were two directorial choices that, while not in the written play itself, I felt enhanced the performance of “Measure for Measure.” These were the attempted rape of Isabella by Lord Angelo and Isabella refusing the Duke’s marriage proposal at the end of the play. In Shakespeare’s play, there is no mention of the physical attempts Angelo makes on Isabella, just argumentative words exchanged between the two. Witnessing the physical attempt by Angelo on Isabella’s virginity, we can see what a cruel person Angelo is and the horrible means he’ll go to in order to get what he wants.

The closing scene was the one I was most apprehensive for; as Shakespeare leaves the ending open for interpretation, many directors will choose to pair Isabella with the Duke in order to give the comedy a proper Shakespearean ending in which all the characters are paired up for marriage. While Owen Corey ‘14 did an excellent job as the Duke, his character is one I have found I despise. It goes against Isabella’s character to suddenly accept a marriage proposal from a man who has been lying to her the entire time he was helping her. For a director to go against the usual choice of fading out before Isabella responds or having her accept his offer, was a welcome relief.

Overall, while the play was long and many of the jokes went over the heads of the audience members, it was an enjoyable experience. I have watched a few adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays over the years, and this one was a welcome change from the usual performances I have seen.

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--- Senior | Executive Editor Emeritus --- Finance/English

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