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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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Nouveau 47 takes bold approach with ‘Measure for Measure’

Their inaugural production seems more about process than product

There’s a reason that “Measure for Measure” is considered William Shakespeare’s problem play – how do you discuss themes of lust, power, class, ethics and religion in one performance without doing a disservice to any of them?

Nouveau 47 faces this question with their inaugural production of this difficult piece of theater, and despite their best efforts things still go awry.

It’s really not a bad show, in fact the courageous interpretation that takes the Margo Jones Stage in Fair Park’s historic Magnolia Lounge contains some performances that are brilliant maneuvers through the Shakespearean dialogue.

Vincentio (Jonathan Taylor) the Duke of Vienna publicly declares that he will be leaving the city and placing the strict Lord Angelo (Justin Locklear) in charge of the government while he is gone. Angelo is known to take the matters of sexual immorality very seriously, although later he proves himself a hypocrite when he is affected by the beautiful, chaste Isabella (Danielle Pickard).

Angelo is sentencing people to death right and left throughout the play, including Isabella’s brother Claudio (Austin Tindle) who has impregnated his beloved, Juliet (Didi Archila). Angelo asks Isabella to forfeit her virginity for Claudio’s life, at which point she devises a ‘bed trick’ with Friar Lodowick (who is really the Duke undercover) that places Angelo’s betrothed Mariana (Hilary Couch) in Isabella’s place.

When the great reveal takes place at the end, and the duke removes his Friar’s hood, much to the dismay of Angelo, the play is resolved in the comic ending of multiple weddings. The duke even proposes to Isabella who does not verbally respond, which N47 has cleverly left to open interpretation.

The main performances of this show are quite good. Pickard is innocent without being naïve and captures her character’s distraught demeanor perfectly; Locklear is obviously no stranger to Shakespeare and about halfway through his opening night performance he captured the vile pomposity of Angelo. And Dennis Raveneau smartly adds an apprehension to his Escalus, the duke’s cousin left to govern with Angelo.

Ryan Martin as Lucio embraces the overplayed insanity that is clearly the theme of the show, and in some ways steals the show. But that’s where I lose faith in the production.

Parr has added elements to an already complicated plot that make sense, I guess, but that will frustrate anyone who approaches Shakespeare from a perspective of literary criticism. Placing Macbeth in a psych ward might make sense, after all he’s seeing knives that aren’t there and he sees dead people. Placing Hamlet in a psych ward might make sense, because he sees his dead father and Ophelia goes crazy and jumps into a river.

But “Measure for Measure”? It does have merit – the play is filled with crazies. Yet, part of the reason that these people appear to be insane is due to the power struggle they experience with the government. When you make Lucio, Bernardine and the rest of the lower-class characters insane, you completely reverse the class struggle and ask your audience to see the world through Angelo’s eyes – he’s just trying to sift through the insane world.

This choice also encourages the actors to yell and run around a stage that limits the production to begin with.

It is clear the intentions behind this show are good. After all, N47 is taking the Margo Jones stage and therefore must use a fresh concept laced with risk as their modus operandi. And though I’m cheering this new company on, as they get their feet on the ground, their “Measure for Measure” left me hesitant.

When the show was placed in the first folio, it was labeled a comedy, so perhaps this production is more in tune with Shakespeare than it seems. And perhaps a director bold enough to tackle this as his theater company’s very first show deserves to be applauded, but it seems to be more about process than product in this “Measure for Measure.”

Catch this show through Feb. 27. Student tickets are $15. For more information visit nouveau47.com.

 

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