MEASURE FOR MEASURE by William Shakspeare
directed by T.J. Walsh
by Alexandra Bonifield

T.J. Walsh directs Shakespeare with a defining, comprehensive understanding of the works and unwavering affection for them. He solves the challenges inherent in the so-called “Problem Plays” as if they are child’s games. Last year’s production of The Winter’s Tale, an odd mix of performance styles with a convoluted plot, hateful characters, a man eaten by a bear, a pastorale and the surreal transformation of a statue to life became a poignant love poem of redemption and reconciliation under Walsh’s tender, clearly delineated guidance. So it goes with this year’s production of the problematic Measure For Measure
, bawdy comedy interwoven with examination of lust and power that rivals the savagery of David Mamet. With the same sterling cast from Richard III, Walsh balances the incongruities into a thought provoking, entertaining unity that reaffirms love, commitment, wise governance and the fun of tomfoolery. Life flows in endless samsara cycles. Richard Haratine excels at playing characters on odysseys or in search of personal illumination. His soulful Duke, wandering the countryside disguised as a simple friar in order to observe his established rule of law enforced by a zealot, functions intriguingly as the play’s deus ex machina and unexpected hero. Montgomery Sutton suffers silent torture of the damned as the “principled” zealot tripped up by his own humanity and abuse of power. His character Angelo is one of Shakespeare’s most despicable villains. Under Walsh’s direction Sutton’s Angelo undergoes a vivid trial of self-loathing for his grievous misdeeds, suffering the consequences with humility and dignified resignation. Angelic and composed, Kelsey Milbourn’s Isabella glides ultimately into true love with her bandied about virginity intact. “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.” Propriety carries the day, which could become saccharine and boring if it weren’t for the marvelous clowns.

As foils to all the sad souls searching for Buddha-like transformation, Garret Storms as a scalawag dandy, David Coffee as a pimp named Bum, Sarah Rutan as the brothel madam, Richard Leaming as dissolute jailbird Barnardine and the enchantingly versatile Blake Hackler as witless constable “Elbow” conspire with madcap bawdiness and delicious comic timing to bring the audience’s attention back to solvable, silly earthly matters. Their endeavors reveal how humor can indeed function as best medicine for the soul…. The overwhelming cruelty of the character Angelo tends to dominate most productions of Measure For Measure. His issues and sins are egregious, but ultimately justice prevails. This Measure For Measure is a lively and loving, in balance production under Walsh’s guidance, pleasing to view with the resplendent Renaissance costumes procured by Lloyd Cracknell and under Michael Skinner’s soft, warm lighting. Almost the star of the production without uttering a word is scenic designer Will Turbyne (Resident Technical Director and Scenic and Lighting Designer at University of Dallas). He graces the production with a magnificent, oversized, slightly off kilter ornate church window through which projections of blue sky or lush gardens can be glimpsed, pulling the audience through the proscenium into the sometimes sanctimonious, sometimes scandalous, sometimes blessedly pure, environment and underscoring the mood of the play with vibrant physical dramatic effect.

Thank you, Trinity Shakespeare Festival, Directors T.J.Walsh, Stephen Brown-Fried and Managing Director Harry Parker for another brilliant pairing. I can’t wait until we celebrate your first decade in 2018.