Review by Tulis McCall
16 Feb 2010
Theatre for New Audience has found a jewel, and I ain’t talkin’ Shakespeare neither. I’m talking the director of this production of Measure for Measure. Arin Arbus has a way with Shakespeare. You can feel her looking past the individuals to the world they inhabit. She does that microcosm/macrocosm cha-cha, with the result that these characters step off the page and into consciousness.
Measure for Measure is the great-great grandparent of the new television show Undercover Boss. Yes, Virginia, there is nothing new on the planet. Duke Vincentio (Jefferson Mays) is leaving town for the expressed purpose of spying on the workings of his little kingdom. He leaves his Deputy Angelo (Roco Sisto) in charge, and within about 15 minutes, everything goes to Hell in a handbag.
This is a show that gives you a run for your money, and then some. Would that all of the performances lived up to the production itself. While Jefferson Mays not only delights but also engages us, the relationship between Isabella and Angelo was a complete mystery. Rocco Sisto’s Angelo was one-toned and leaden. There was no evidence of the man who would betray his sovereign’s trust with a flick of the wrist and betray his own self because he was overcome with physical desire. And as for the object of his desire, Elisabeth Waterston was lackluster in the extreme. She is an earnest actor who has something to learn about passion and power, and she would do well to figure out what to do with those long elegant arms and hands. At the moment they are obstacles, and they need to become her allies.
The rest of the cast was not only able, but displayed a breadth of talent and skill, particularly Mary Tessta (Mistress Overdone), Alfredo Narciso (Lucio), John Keating (Pompey) John Christopher Jones (Elnow) and Robert Langdon Lloyd (Escalus).
This Measure for Measure is a production well worth seeing. Even though Ms. Arbus falls into the predictable habit of forcing so many important moments downstage, and thereby depriving the side audiences a good view, she has in fact guided this cast to an admirable production with style and grace. It is a complicated tale that is told simply and told well. Shakespeare can be an old windbag in the wrong hands. He is more than served well here.
"Arin Arbus (Director), .., cannot manage to create a smooth and compelling evening from the admittedly nubby fabric of one of Shakespeare’s more laboriously plotted works"
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"Only the chameleonic Mays etches a multifaceted portrait."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Arbus staged last season’s compelling “Othello” for this same company, but the results here are less felicitous."
Jeremy Gerard for Bloomberg
"While low on atmosphere and murky passion, is notable for its clarity and accessibility."
Karl Levett for Back Stage
"Arin Arbus' direction is competent and brisk.
Jennier Farrar for Associated Press
"Trimly mounted, crisply performed, a lyrical earful and a comic delight. But it's nothing special."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...