In today’s Wall Street Journal I review the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s new production of Measure for Measure. Here’s a review.
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Why do some of Shakespeare’s plays get produced more often than others? For all the self-evidently surpassing excellence of the most familiar masterpieces, I’m tempted to say that the answer in many cases is sheer force of habit. On the other hand, certain of the less popular plays really are less popular for a reason—though it’s not that they’re less good. When it comes to the plays known to scholars as “problem plays,” which teeter uncomfortably but purposefully between low comedy and high tragedy, it isn’t hard to see why cautious directors might choose to play safe and stick to “Hamlet.”
Not so Davis McCallum, artistic director of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. After two seasons at the helm, he looks to be personally drawn to the trickier plays. Mr. McCallum directed “The Winter’s Tale” last summer, and this time around he’s giving us a production of “Measure for Measure,” the quintessential problem play, that’s staged and acted so passionately that you’ll come away saying “No problem!”…
Save for the use of festive modern dress and a touch of gender-switching non-traditional casting, he sticks to playing “Measure for Measure” down the center, trusting the audience to accept its complexities as true to life—which they are and which we do, happily. If you’ve ever been tempted to laugh at a funeral, you’ll know where Shakespeare is coming from, and Mr. McCallum gets it.
No small part of the excellence of this “Measure for Measure” is due to Ms. Purcell, who has impressed me no end in regional productions of such demanding fare as Samuel Beckett’s “Play” (at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater in 2012) and Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” (at Studio Theatre of Washington, D.C., in 2014). Her Isabella is so intense that you can all but see her quivering with barely contained passion. It makes no sense that an actor capable of such things isn’t much better known….
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Read the whole thing here.
The trailer for Measure for Measure: