Thomasina in Tom Stoppard's mind bending time warping play, ARCADIA, observes that when you stir rasberry jam into vanilla pudding it will first swirl in streaks but ultimately will turn the entire pudding pink. If you stir the pudding in the opposite direction, the jam will not separate back out again.
--LIFE MOVES ONLY FORWARD--NEVER BACK!--
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Measure for Measure at the Goodman
We saw the Goodman Theatre's production of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure last week. It was well done and technically flawless as usual , but I wasn't bowled over and did have some concerns which will come out in my comments below.
for Measurehas been a problem play
for 400 years and director Robert Falls manages to reinforce that feeling in
his current Goodman Theatre production in Chicago.First of all Falls falls for the old “if you don’t have the actors over-design it” and hope the ever moving scenery will cover up the cast. I wish it were not the case but no one in the
company, aside from a few of the comics, seemed to rise above thestew-- i.e. nothing in this production is bad
but nothing got my blood flowing either.James Newcomb’s Duke returns to eavesdrop and meddle not as a Friar but as a Barry
Fitzgeraldish Irish priest.He is
amusing yet has bothersome problems with keeping his accent consistent.The
same could be said of Isabella who pronounces only her name in dialect while
sounding straight mid-western the rest of the time.
The selection of the New York Times Square of the pimp
ridden porno polluted 1970’s is a pertinent setting for the
play, but itsgaudy neon signs,shiny steelfence cages,and too neatly
positioned piles of garbage come off as too sanitized for anyone who actually saw those years. It was never glitzy; it was dirty, drug ridden,and wretchedly seamy.
Notwithstanding things do keep moving.Falls accelerates the scene transitions by
starting entrances in slow motion as the previous scene winds down and then
bumping up the lights and the movement to full speed as the next scene
begins.In another nice moment he
highlights Angelo’s lust for Isabella by
having her enter in low light stop motion and rush forward to embrace him. The audience gasps and laughs. There is a quick blackout and the lights come
up again to see them both apart and ready to play the scene as written but with
an indelible comment made visually about an undercurrent in both characters.
And then there’s the ending.
Directors often search for the
right visual and movement metaphors to reinforce or clarify the action of a
play and I have just noted a successful example of one such choice. Yet when directorial search extends into choosing an action that is not even vaguely suggested by the text, I must draw the line.
Falls’ decision to have the freed convict Bardardine sneak
back during the jazzy final curtain love fest and stab Isabella just seems ludicrous rather than meaningful. Barardine’s short comic appearance as the
death row inmate who refuses to cooperate in his execution is milked nicely by actor
Joe Foust, but his short re-appearance in order to be pardonedby the Duke gives us not one remote shred of
reason as to whybarely a minute after
his release he would somehow acquire a knife and return to the party and
butcher the lady the Duke has just invited to be his wife.
Shakespeare gives us plenty to think about in the play.Power is beguiling and sinister in its reach.Justice seldom manages to be just and can be arbitrary.Yet there is a
difference between seeming arbitrary and being arbitrary. While admitting Euripidean deus ex machina
endings are possible, it remains my thought that this was not what
Shakespeare set out to say in this still problematic work.