In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Measure for Measure
  • Nancy Taylor
Measure for Measure. By William Shakespeare. Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Black Swan, Ashland, Oregon. 7 August 1998.

Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 1.

Mistress Overdone (Vilma Silva) and Lucio (Anthony Heald) in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 1998 production of William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in the Black Swan Theatre. Directed by Libby Appel. Photo: T. Charles Erickson.


Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 2.

The Duke of Vienna (Derrick Lee Weeden) and Isabella (Vilma Silva) in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 1998 production of William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in the Black Swan Theatre. Directed by Libby Appel. Photo: T. Charles Erickson.


Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 3.

Angelo (Richard Howard) and Isabella (Vilma Silva) in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 1998 production of William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in the Black Swan Theatre. Directed by Libby Appel. Photo: T. Charles Erickson.

Artistic Director, Libby Appel, created a series of boundary dissolutions in this production, an appropriate post-modern era approach to a play driven by stark and extreme contrasts. Her production of Uncle Vanya similarly highlighted the interdependence of presence and representation, spectator and spectacle inherent in the theatrical medium.

When I walked into the performance space, I saw larger-than-life erotica plastering the walls under the title “Sex Museum.” Scenic designer William Bloodgood’s figures, inspired by the early 20th-century Viennese artist Egon Schiele, provoked a sense of the grotesque, of a potentially cruel and lonely sexuality. In the center of the playing space a square platform framed by iron works suggested the French Quarter. The floor was covered with tabloid newspapers, advertisements for phone sex, and fliers announcing Angelo’s edict to shut down the bawdy houses. But on a support pillar near the back of the space was a painting of a crucifix. The juxtaposition of Christ’s nearly naked body with the pornographic figures was startling. The apparent dichotomy between Christ’s spiritual suffering and an atmosphere of sexual pleasure was further compromised by the bawdy characters’ sadomasochistic sexuality throughout the production, and Isabella’s submissive prostration before the crucifix. The set itself constructed and deconstructed apparently stable boundaries.

She borrowed the fundamental concept from Tina Packer, who directed Measure for Measure for her own Shakespeare and Company and for Lisa Wolpe’s Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company. Appel cast the play with seven actors, each playing both a higher and lower character. Vilma Silva, for instance, played both Isabella and Mistress Overdone. The tension between good and evil resonated most dramatically in Angelo (Richard Howard). Just before his second interview with Isabella, he entered flagellating his bare back with a whip, frustrated and desperate both to contain and express his desire. By the end of that scene, he had torn off Isabella’s head covering, pinned her to the ground, and covered her mouth with his hand to stop her screams when she saw him reach to unzip his pants. Then suddenly, he pulled his hand away, as if stunned by his own violence. Deeply shaken, Isabella covered her head again for her final monologue. But her voice had a confused and questioning note when she asserted that she must protect her chastity at the expense of her brother’s life. The audience was also encouraged to question her decision; as she got to her feet, the tattooed body stocking of Mistress Overdone flashed us from beneath Isabella’s black robe. During Angelo’s monologue following the scene, Isabella stood in the upstage left corner, first immobile as a statue, her hands clasped over her stomach as if sickened by what she was hearing. Brian Nason lit her from either side by a pink and a white light. As Angelo’s desire ignited, she pulled off her head covering and touched her hair seductively, the image of his fantasy.

The confusion of boundaries between the multiple characters each actor played extended to a confusion among character and actor and audience. The play began with all the actors sitting on a series of stepped platforms upstage left and the Duke (Derrick Lee) introducing...

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-332X
Print ISSN
0192-2882
Pages
pp. 73-76
Launched on MUSE
1999-03-01
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.