The folks at the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern have been very busy since last fall, presenting all of William Shakespeare’s comedies, in the order in which they were written, as part of the Shakespeare Evolution Series. This month, they tackle the last of the Bard’s comedies: Measure for Measure and All’s Well that Ends Well.
Measure for Measure, which opened September 8, deals with the lack of enforcement of morality laws in the city of Vienna and the chaos that ensues when an attempt is made to correct the problem.
The Duke of Vienna announces he is departing for Poland and leaves his deputy Angelo in charge. But the Duke remains in Vienna and disguises himself as a friar in order to see what his deputy will do in his absence. Determined to enforce the severe morality laws, which have become lax over the years, Angelo immediately imprisons a young man named Claudio. The offense: Getting his betrothed pregnant—which is punishable by death. Claudio’s sister finds out about the incident and seeks to intervene on her brother’s behalf.
Directed by Jeff Watkins, Measure for Measure is an enjoyable exploration of Shakespeare’s tendency towards tragicomedy in his later years. While jokes, innuendo, and laughter abound throughout the performance, there are also many somber and thought-provoking moments for the audience to chew on as well.
Isabella, played effectively by Mary Russell, dominates the show with her passion and fierce will. There are many highlighted performances, such as Matt Felten as Elbow and Nicholas Faircloth as Pompey. Matt Nitchie as Angelo delivers a performance that invokes both pity and distaste for the character, and Maurice Ralston excels in the difficult role of both Duke and Friar. The cast was strong and worked together well, and the directing was smart, with quick pacing and clever staging.
The Shakespeare Tavern is always one of my favorite theatre spots in Atlanta. The menu is good, and the experience of eating in the tavern-like setting puts the audience in an instant mood for Shakespeare.
Measure for Measure runs September 8, 16, 21, 23, 27 and 29, 2012. All’s Well that Ends Well runs September 14 ,15 ,20 ,22 ,28 and 30, 2012. Performances are at 7:30 p.m, except for Sundays, which is 6:30 p.m. The Tavern’s website contains wonderful information on what to expect and how everything works.
– Christi Whitney