The May 22 - Jun. 8 run of Measure for Measure at the downtown Gene Frankel Theatre marks Mercury Glass Theatre's inaugural, fully produced performance. Driven by young artists, the company was founded to create theater that provokes thoughtfulness, engages audiences with socially progressive themes, and - as is evident in Measure for Measure - lends a fresh, contemporary take on the classics.
Set in Vienna, William Shakespeare's play thrives upon questionable morals, hypocrisy, and misguided governmental power. It opens with Duke Vincentio announcing his temporary departure - a ruse to spy on the city and Lord Angelo, to whom he leaves authority. Angelo is the personification of the law...except, of course, in his aggressive attempts to sleep with a nun, Isabella, in exchange for overturning the death sentence of her brother Claudio (who is guilty of fornication). After revealing his disguise, the Duke punishes Angelo in the form of marriage and commends Isabella for her unwavering morals by reuniting her with her brother. The twisted comedy asks the audience to consider justice and truth on both an individual and societal level.
Artistic Director Philip Waller succeeds in transforming Shakespeare's 401-year-old play to the 2014 New York City arts scene. While Shakespeare may not have explicitly imagined his characters in the form of cocaine addict pimps, a homoerotic Duke/Friar, and what can only be described as a Jersey Shore "Pauly D" version of Lucio, it certainly works. Shakespeare's familiar Early Modern English remains in the script with interspersed, informal renditions of some lines; for instance, loud-mouthed bachelor Lucio (Adam Zivcovic) declares, "Not to be weird with you, but he's in prison" - breaking the news to Isabella about her brother's plight. Needless to say, the well-executed comedic timing of Waller's dynamic cast is most notable.
In particular, Robert Spence as Duke Vincentio commands from the very beginning with his memorable performance of this deceptive, self-righteous character, who ultimately emerges as one of the "good guys." Rachel Jane Conn as the gentle Isabella exudes genuineness in her performance; from tears to violent screams and pleading monologues to protest her brother's death sentence, Conn's role compliments the caricatured, hilarious, and sometimes crude portrayals of Pompey, Lucio, the Provost, and Mistress Overdone.
The run of Measure for Measure isn't over yet! Performances continue tonight through Sunday Jun. 8 at 8pm Wednesday through Saturday and at 1pm on Sunday. Tickets are only $25 (student and senior discounts are available) and can be purchased here.