The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0671. Tuesday, 17 June 1997.
Date: Monday, 16 Jun 1997 15:43:42 -0400
Subject: Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival Measure for Measure
The Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival's Measure for Measure is their best
production so far, or, at least, that's what auditor after auditor told
me during intermission last Saturday night. Chris Reeder's set has
three distinct levels and allows the actors a great deal of choice. The
present production begins with a extra-textual dumb show. Vincentio
(Dan Kenney) enters on the highest level of the stage and falls asleep.
He dreams of a sexually promiscuous city, a writhing orgy which he
cannot subdue. After this disturbing dream, the Duke decides to turn
over the reigns of government to Angelo. Kenny's Duke is a genuinely
comic duke, and he recurrently turns a baffled face to the laughing
audience. When Angelo comments, "I perceive Your Grace, like power
divine,/Hath looked upon my passes" (5.1.377-78 Bevington), the audience
hears ironic discrepancy, not an ideological endorsement of the divine
right of dukes. Kenney's Duke is too inept, and too pleasure loving, to
be godlike. When the Provost (William Sweeney) hands the Duke Ragozine's
head-"Here is the head" (4.3.102)-the Duke drops it in dismay. The
Provost looks at him archly and says, "I'll carry it myself (102). The
business is added, of course, but it's right in line with Kenney's
To account for the authority granted him, Friar Lodowick (the Duke in
disguise) reveals himself to the Provost -"You know the character, I
doubt not, and the signet is not strange to you" (4.2.193-4)-by showing
him the signet ring on his finger. Earlier (3.2) he reveals himself to
Escalus (Kristin Chase) by pulling back his hood. By the way, the
Duke's hood in this production is a genuine disguise. His face cannot
Khris Lewin's Angelo is precise and prenzy, a character the audience
likes to hate. Lewin's Angelo speaks with a certain careful precision
that suggests an inner restraint, a lack of full-bodied ebullience. One
wonders how he ever falls of Isabella (Marni Penning). Since Penning
usually plays one of the dominant roles for the CSF, it's interesting
that her Isabella is understated. She does not steal the limelight from
the bumbling Duke.
Rich Kelly's Lucio speaks with a Tennessee/Arkansas accent that reminds
the audience of both Ellis (the costume and the moves help) and Bill
Clinton. This is very well done-probably Kelly's finest performance for
Lisa Penning's Mariana is neatly ambiguous. She is, of course, dressed
in black, but when the Friar enters (4.1.7), she is listening to her
Walkman-in a rather sensuous way. And, in fact, the audience soon
realizes that her black shirt is see-through, that she is wearing a
rather provocative garter belt that exposes a good deal of-well-flesh.
We might wonder why the Duke has been coming regularly (in disguise) to
visit her: the seed of doubt is cast, and the doubt is not resolved.
Since Marni and Lisa Penning are sisters, trading places in Angelo's bed
is (in terms of realism) less problematic.
Nick Rose as Nikki Hrothgar plays Mistress Overdone in an overdone
auburn wig. I'm not sure how many of the auditors realize that Mistress
Overdone is being played in drag-until of course her/his wig is removed
late in the action. I suppose the idea is that disguise is recurrent in
the Vienna of the play.
Jim Stump plays an excellent Pompey; Colby Codding, a crazed Abhorson
(as well as Friar Peter); Charles Schereen, a fearful Claudio; and
Nicole Franklin-Kern, a very pregnant Julietta.
And the production gets better and better. I've seen it twice, and
expect to see it again. Opening night it was good, but a week later it
was magnificent. I recommend it. It runs until June 22 at the Aronoff
Center in downtown Cincinnati. For information and tickets, call