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Theater review: 'Measure for Measure' at A Noise Within

September 29, 2010 | 12:20 pm


And you thought senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell had odd ideas. Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder — and fouler — in Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” now at A Noise Within. The Duke of Vienna (Robertson Dean) goes all “Undercover Boss,” disguising himself as a friar to take a closer look at his dissolute country. Left in charge is devout hardliner Angelo (Geoff Elliott, also co-directing), who promptly condemns young Claudio (William Patrick Riley) to death for having pre-marital sex.  But when Claudio’s sister, postulant nun Isabella (Karron Graves), comes to plead for clemency, Angelo gets hot under his clerical collar and offers a shocking deal: Claudio’s life for her virginity. 

Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott’s taut production, driven by Doug Newell’s urgent, percussive music, has the feel of a psychological thriller. Performed in modern dress on Stephen W. Gifford’s stark set, this “Measure,” with its unflinching look at political hypocrisy, is both accessible and timely.

Dean’s assured Duke stage manages the bed tricks and head tricks with aplomb, while Mark Bramhall and Stephen Rockwell deliver droll turns as lieutenants in the sex industry. As battling celibates, Elliott and Graves are still exploring their unsettling dance of wills. Does Angelo’s harassment destroy Isabelle’s serenity or ultimately free her from her own repression? Shakespeare leaves that one up to us.

— Charlotte Stoudt

“Measure for Measure” A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale. See website for performance schedule. Ends Dec. 5. $42 to $46. Contact: (818) 240-0910 or Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

Photo: Robertson Dean and Karron Graves in "Measure for Measure." Credit: Craig Schwartz.