Measure For Measure cast

As you enter the 240-seat Douglas Campbell Studio Stage for Bard on the Beach’s Measure For Measure, you’re greeted with an old upright piano in the corner of the wooden stage, a few bar stools, and wisteria hanging from the balcony. This sets the scene for one of Shakespeare’s darker comedic productions. The original production is set in Vienna, however Bard on the Beach has cleverly brought Measure For Measure to New Orleans circa 1900.

The show starts with a musical number featuring bawdy Mistress Overdone (aka “The Whore to End All Whores”) and the cast, introducing the darker, seedier side of New Orleans inside a brothel. Merriment and music continue to entertain as the storyline sets in.

Andrew Wheeler, David Mackay, Bernard Cuffling
[Andrew Wheeler, David Mackay, Bernard Cuffling]

Duke Vincentio (a top-notch performance by Andrew Wheeler) empowers Angelo (David Mackay) to run the city in the name of cleaning up its reputation and loose morals. The Duke pretends to leave town, but later disguises himself as a Friar, able to watch the transformation take place on the sidelines. As Angelo begins to abuse his power by arresting citizens at his whim, themes of justice, inequality, and hypocrisy are brought to the forefront in this two-act, two and a half hour play (including intermission).

Lois Anderson
[Lois Anderson]

Lois Anderson charms in the role of Mistress Overdone. Together with her chums the foolish Froth (Benjamin Elliott), Pompey (David Marr), and Elbow the constable (Chris Cochrane), the show is a joy to take in.

Along the way, several original tunes (written by both John Murphy and Anthony Pavlic for this production) evoke the gospel and jazz of the south, while banjos, washboards, triangles, and mood lighting accentuate the scenes.

Benjamin Elliot (piano) arranged the music for a traditional New Orleans jazz ensemble for tuba (Dustin Freeland), banjo (Anton Lipovetsky), clarinet (Chris Cochrane), drums (Luc Roderique) and trumpet (Bonnie Northgraves). It’s these colourful tunes that add a lighter tone to an otherwise dialogue-heavy Shakespearean classic. I found most of the play easy to follow with the exception of a couple of longer scenes midway into the second half.

Anton Lipovetsky, Andrew Wheeler
[Anton Lipovetsky, Andrew Wheeler]

Luc Roderique does a fine job as Claudio, the imprisoned brother to Isabella (Sereana Malani gives a passionate performance here). Anton Lipovetsky, donning a burnt orange-trimmed bowler hat and equally colourful costume, shines as Lucio. And Chris Cochrane channels the perfect blood-boiling cop, Elbow. At times, the characters join the audience as well.

Andrew Wheeler, Sereana Malani
[Andrew Wheeler, Sereana Malani]

Though Colleen Wheeler is given a smaller role here (as Mariana, Angelo’s would-be wife), it’s probably due to the fact that she’ll be starring as Queen Elizabeth in this weekend’s Elizabeth Rex.

When the Duke finally “returns” from his absence, he restores justice to bring the play to a happy conclusion.

Set Designer Drew Facey created trap doors on the stage floor to introduce characters and add a dimension of the underbelly of society to the production. Act two kicks off in full Mardi Gras atmosphere, all beautiful creations by Costume Designer Mara Gottler.

Colleen Wheeler, David Mackay, Bernard Cuffling
[Colleen Wheeler, David Mackay, Bernard Cuffling]

Measure For Measure continues at the Douglas Campbell Studio Stage, Tuesdays to Sundays, July 3 to September 13.

All photos by David Blue.


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