Long, long ago, in a time before the scandal of MTV, Shakespeare was writing plays. He wrote tragedies, comedies and histories. Yet don”t be fooled by his upstanding reputation Shakespeare had a few scandalous tricks up his sleeve. Last night, University Productions began its first set of Shakespeare”s most contemporary play, “Measure for Measure.”
Red feathered boas, black patent leather pants, white stiletto heals and snake-skinned boots are not the usual attire seen in the productions of Shakespeare plays. However, these items were just the beginning of the unexpected, outrageousness that University Productions brought to the stage.
During the opening scene, it was difficult to tell whether the audience was witnessing the work of a genius or the work of the hottest club on campus. Robert Palmer”s “Simply Irresistable” was blasting into the theater while actors gyrated across the stage. Booze, drugs and sexual acts were happening all over the place. As this scene continued, some of the audience members looked as if they would have to physically keep their mouths from hitting the floor.
Soon enough, the realization hits that this wild, crazy place is the corrupt city of Vienna. The Duke, a free-thinking, long-haired, leather jacket-wearing man, has lost control of his citizens. In desperation, he decides to take a short leave, appointing a strict man, Angelo, to take his place.
U-Prod”s “Measure for Measure” uses a limited color palette of red, white and black. As a reflection on his name and not his nature, Angelo is dressed in white from head to toe. Angelo wastes no time using his new power when he discovers that one of the citizens, Claudio, has impregnated his fiancee, Juliet. He condemns Claudio to death, and does not want to negotiate this decision.
At this point, Claudio”s beautiful, chaste sister Isabella enters the picture. This is where the story gets even more interesting. Although Isabella is dressed in red, a color that symbolizes passion and seduction, she is in training to become a nun. After hearing the news of her brother”s death sentence, she goes to Angelo to plead for mercy. Angelo, taken aback by Isabella”s beauty and goodness, decides that he will release Claudio on one condition: Isabella must have sex with him.
The excitement doesn”t stop here. The rest of the play takes several twists and turns, pressing on moral issues and the themes of justice and mercy.
During the entire production, there was an enormous amount of energy on the stage. From the main characters to the characters with smaller roles, the gusto never subsided. All of the actors were completely absorbed in the play, never missing a line or a stage direction. By using great facial expression and body language, they turned a difficult play into something that was easily accessible.
One of the highlights of the show was the character Lucio. Dressed in a patent leather get-up, hoop earrings and black hair striped with red streamers, Lucio was quite a sight to see. He was portrayed as a flamboyantly homosexual male grabbing men”s butts and thrusting his hips in front of them. He skipped around on stage, causing havoc wherever possible, and even amused Isabella”s nun friends.
University Productions” “Measure for Measure” is a humorous, shocking and most importantly, fun look at Shakespeare. It will make you laugh, and perhaps if you”re old-fashioned, it might make you cry. It will make you want to shake your booty and check your morals at the same time. Most of all, it will make you realize that even back in the day, when people were talking in a foreign speech they called “English,” they were having a good time.