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Big Idea Theatre presents modern “Measure for Measure”

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Big Idea Theatre’s latest production, William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” directed by Kirk Blackinton and Katie Chapman, opened Friday.

The play is a lesser-known bit of the canon, often put in the category of “problem play” as it fits neither the specific parts of a comedy nor a tragedy. The plot is divided between the struggle of the play’s antagonist, Angelo, played by Jeffrey Lloyd Heatherly, and the nun-in-training Isabella, played by Gina Williams. The play covers moral ground of a more philosophical nature with Isabella’s plight being the question, “Should she commit an act against God to save a life?”

Set in Vienna, the production takes interesting liberties with the stage, creating a back-alley slum to show the degradation of the city under the soft rule of Duke Vincentio, played by local heavyweight Blair Leatherwood. With movable chain-link fences, the set proved to be as malleable as the villain’s own moral scruples, and made the action flow nicely.

Heatherly plays with the inner turmoil of lust to a fine degree, making his soliloquies pop out memorably. Williams also takes her role well as the nun, fighting back and forth about the choice she must make and the consequences that arise after. Leatherwood’s job as puppetmaster becomes two parts of a whole as he moves back and forth between the sovereign and a lowly clergyman who instigates all the hijinks behind the scenes.

As for comic relief, the audience is never far from laughter as Lucio, played by Big Idea staple Brian Harrower (who also had a hand in set design), brings the irreverent ever-further by making Shakespearean witticisms even more accessible. His realizations at play’s end make for audience guffaws.

The production incorporated hard rock music into the set, with dark songs of want and angst peppering the already grunge-heavy stage before the show and during scene changes.

While the production had a few slow points, it still emerged as a fine production to showcase a new angle on the play.

MAXWELL’S RATING: 9/10

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