I saw Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure on Saturday night at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. I had already seen a production of Romeo and Juliet in school (a traveling company) on Friday, so this seemed like a weekend of Shakespearean immersion; I felt like finding a festival somewhere.
Anyway if you happen to live in the Chicago area I just thought I’d let you all know that it is a typical Robert Falls production, which is to say that it’s not for the Shakespeare purist but it is certainly worth seeing.
Falls has always had a tendency to set his plays in unusual eras and twist them accordingly—some might recall his post-apocalyptic Midsummer Night’s Dream from the 1980’s—and this is no exception: it is set the extremely decadent NYC of the 70’s and the sex, drugs, rock and roll (and disco) are plentiful. Measure For Measure is a perfect vehicle for this. If you are unfamiliar with the play, it is about a Duke who has coddled the decadent elements of his kingdom by turning a soft eye on the harsh laws that are in place. Seeing the depravity of his country and knowing himself responsible, he cannot stand it and decides to vanish for awhile, leaving a successor he knows will not be up to the task to try to clean it up and fail miserably (so that he can return and lead his people back to a new golden age, one assumes). That successor is the two-faced ass Angelo, who decides to impose a harsh, Puritanical interpretation of those aforementioned laws and clean up the streets despite his own secret sins.
Falls incorporates the kind of broad comedy that the play is known for in his use of his ensemble, but this is at its core a dark, serious and troublesome script—it features the attempted rape of a nun—and he treats its central characters seriously—so seriously, in fact, that an appended scene features one of them being murdered in the renewed violence of the city’s debauched streets.
It is a provocative, racy and often very funny theatrical experience—exactly what one would expect from both Shakespeare and Robert Falls.
If you live around here, it's worth seeing.