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Measure for Measure

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William Shakespeare’s, “Measure for Measure,” written around1604, takes its title from a passage in Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount: “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2). Or, as the Beatles sang in 1969, "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Appropriately enough, the sexy sixties are also the decade in which Theatricum Botanicum has placed its latest staging of “Measure for Measure.”  What’s more, the Fab Four’s couplet not only coincides with the themes set forth in The Bard’s convoluted comedy, it’s also the sentiment that plays-out in the show.

 

Amidst protesters in tie-dye (costuming by Erica D. Schwartz), bearing signs and posters calling for peace, love, and whatever else, the Duke of Vienna, Vincentio (an articulate Aaron Hendry), becomes concerned about what his people think of his ability as ruler. In order to discover the truth of the matter, the Duke grants governing authority to his zealous second-in-command, Angelo (a convincingly conniving Adam Mondschein); he is to enforce the unpopular morality laws of the day, as the Duke flees on royal sabbatical.

 

Actually, however, Duke Vincetio becomes a sort of undercover boss, disguising himself as a provincial monk in order to get a reading on the people’s state of mind with regard to their extant state of governance.

Of course, Angelo’s moralistic relentlessness causes an uproar among the populace, especially when Claudio (a handsomely competent Colin Simon) is sentenced to death for impregnating his fiancé,Juliet (a comely Crystal Clark). In this particular scenario miscegenation becomes a palpable part of the subtext: Juliet is black; Claudio is white.

After Claudio’s casual acquaintance, the slick and slimy Lucio (played with gender-bending hilarity by Melora Marshall), informs Claudio’s sister, Isabella (Willow Geer in a fiery portrayal) of Claudio’s incarceration, she comes to Angelo to plead for her beloved sibling’s life. Initially impervious to her pleas, Angelo quickly and hypocritically becomes infatuated with Isabella and propositions her with this offer: He will grant Claudio a reprieve on the condition that Isabella engages in an amorous tryst with him, the makeshift monarch.

Isabella, a novice nun, nobly rebukes Angelo’s unseemly attempt at seduction, declaiming that “chastity and honor” are her life. Upon visiting her imprisoned brother, Isabella discloses the dirty deal offered by the substitute governor. Claudio, who at first is grateful to Isabella for preserving her honor, rapidly recants his opinion.  As the hour of his execution nears, Claudio urges his sister to yield to Angelo’s offer.

With cleverly kinetic direction by Ellen Geer, drenched in the colorful haze of 1960s nostalgia – a period-perfect VW bus is actually in on the premises, as sixty’s protest anthems, such as Country Joe McDonald’s “What Are We Fighting For?” waft through the action alive, aloud and melodically – this company and crew has renewed and, even, enlivened Shakespeare’s original notions (which he purportedly borrowed from a true-life tale from 1547 Italy).

In this huge cast there are many standouts, including Gillian Doyle in the traditionally male role of Escalus; Gerald C. Rivers as the purple-clad pimp, Pompey; the vocally powerful Earnestine Phillips as Mrs. Overdone; Thomas Ashworth as the clownish constable called Elbow; and Charlie Howell in a memorable turn as the insistently inebriated Barnardine.

While “Measure for Measure” is considered one of Shakespeare’s so-called problem plays – the great playwright and sonneteer has been accused by modern day drama critics of abandoning this script; after all, it is not a tidily tied plotline by any means – the pleasure of seeing this army of actors, supported by a platoon of technicians and craftspeople, perform words written more than four-centuries ago by the utmost wordsmith in the English language is an unrivaled experience.

Measure for Measure continues at the lush outdoor venue known as The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum – 1419 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Topanga – through September 1. For reservations, dial (310) 455 – 3723. For schedules and online ticketing, visit www.theatricum.com

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.