Carmen Grant and Tom Rooney (photo by Michael Cooper)
Moulded Out of Faults
Stratford mounts a good production of a mediocre play
by Stuart Munro and Dave Ross@StuartMunroTO
Dave Ross: I would have to disagree here. While I thought the design was quite good, it didn’t give one the sense of being in one world. The costumes, especially, seemed to lack cohesion. What I really loved were the performances, especially Carmen Grant as Isabella. Her impassioned pleas for her brother’s life never lost their force.
DR: Despite these strong performances, the play lacks energy. This isn’t a criticism of the actors, but the material. The central plot, surrounding Isabella, the Duke, and Angelo is as topsy-turvy as one would expect from Shakespeare, with trickery and misplaced identity used to both confound and resolve elements of the story. However, there is a host of other characters and plots that just don't seem to belong here. The story seems unnecessarily complex, and weak as a result. It would seem to me that this play would never make it to stage these days.
SM: I might not go that far, but I think Measure could certainly benefit from a round of trimming and editing. There are wonderfully great ideas here that, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to get the same level of refinement that some of Shakespeare’s other comedies got. In the first half especially, the shift between the darker drama and the much lighter clowning was so sharp that it was almost shocking – they seemed like such different stories that I had a hard time knowing what kind of play I was supposed to be watching. The second half goes a long way to resolve this disconnect of style, but the play’s ending which, true to comic form, has almost everyone paired off, leaves almost all the characters unhappy (and, in this staging, not always with the partner implied by the text). Despite some very strong performances (which are worth seeing) and excellent design and direction, I can’t quite get over the problems of the play itself.