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Saturday, February 19, 2005

Measure for Measure

I spent the late afternoon at Chicago Shakespeare, seeing "Measure for Measure. A strange play, with a seriously unsatisfying ending, but one with enough ambiguity for a crowd.

In the play, the Duke takes off and turns things over to Angelo to clean up Dodge. Angelo condemns Claudio to death and his betrothed (Juliette) to prison, for fornication. Claudio's friend Lucio entreats Claudio's sister Isabella to try to persuade Angelo not to execute Claudio. Angelo (a pillar of rectitude) agrees, but only if Isabella has sex with him. She pretends to agree, and, with the assistance of the Duke (disguised as monk), substitutes Marianna (once Angelo's fiance, until her dowry was lost at sea) for herself. Angelo doesn't notice and then renegs on his promise to free CLaudio.

The Duke reveals himself and, at the end, forces Angelo to marry Marianna; Lucio to marry a woman who bore him a child (we never meet her); Claudio to marry Juliette. He himself seeks to marry Isabella. Marianna wants to get married, Angelo doesn't. Lucio doesn't want to get married. Claudio and Juliette are OK with this. Isabella wants to become a nun.

In essence, the Duke offers Isabella the same deal Angelo did. Angelo says--have sex with me and I'll free your brother. The Duke says--I freed your brother, now have sex with me. (We don't actuallyknow how that turns out--the play ends.)

Everyone (except C & J) goes away unhappy.

And the comic relief--Constable Elbow--is no Bucket.

As usual at Chicago Shakespeare, the acting is exemplary, the directing is first rate, and the set design is terrific. And the music is first rate.

Worth the time, probably, but not emotionally satisfying.


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