Theatre Review: Measure For Measure

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

“Measure for Measure” revolves around a ghastly choice. A young man whose fiancé is pregnant is sentenced to death, for fornication. his sister pleads for his life with the all-powerful regent who rules the city. And he offers her a deal, on one condition.

“You must lay down the treasures of your body."

The woman, who’s studying to be a nun, can’t believe it.

“My brother did love Juliet, and you tell me he shall die for it.”

“He shall not Isabel, if you give me love."

When she hesitates, he goes ballistic.

“Redeem thy brother by yielding up thy body to my will.”

You heard it: sex for clemency. In this show, set in the wealthy, decadent city of Vienna in 1814, such dirty deals abound.

And did I mention? It’s a comedy! At least it ultimately reaches something resembling a happy ending. But even the good guys engage in a bit of dishonest trickery as they turn the tables on the bad guys, making this a morally ambiguous play by any measure.

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare’s production is handsome and high standard, with eleven professional actors in the cast.  And even though it’s a complex story, the staging is smooth. Credit the festival’s new artistic leadership for doing a good job with one of Shakespeare’s more challenging and unfamiliar scripts. If Tahoe Shakespeare keeps mounting shows like this, I expect theater lovers will flock to the festival’s gorgeous, sandy lakeside venue.

“Measure for Measure” continues at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival through August 23rd.