Theater archives

A Fine Revival of Measure for Measure Could Use More Inventiveness


Sicko Statesman in Sex Shocker! Racy Regent Nuzzles Nun! Alert the tabloids: Yet another politician who preaches moral rectitude practices moral turpitude. As the Duke in Measure for Measure says wearily, “This news is old enough, yet it is every day’s news.”

Fiasco Theater, a merry sextet who likes to stage dramas meant for much larger casts, bring Shakespeare’s ever-pertinent problem play to the New Victory. In the state of Vienna, the ruling Duke (Andy Grotelueschen) temporarily cedes the crown to upright Angelo (Paul L. Coffey). When Angelo condemns Claudio for promiscuity, the young man’s sister, Isabella (Emily Young), a trainee nun, pleads for clemency. Angelo agrees, provided Isabella offer up her body “to his concupiscible intemperate lust.”

As in their marvelous Cymbeline, Fiasco unfolds the drama on a mostly bare stage, here arrayed with six doors courtesy set designer Derek McLane. Amid these various portals, the company trots capably through the material, though their interpretation somehow lacks Cymbeline’s quicksilver inventiveness and sense of play. Despite some lovely singing and fine performances (chiefly by Ben Steinfeld in a couple of smaller roles), this may not be the piece that turns on New Victory’s teen audience to a lifelong love of Shakespeare. But it should confirm their just suspicion of authority.