What would summer be without a visit to Edgerton Park in New Haven courtesy of Elm City Shakespeare for a seasonal infusion of quality literary entertainment? This year’s offering, in its sixteenth season to date, is William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” evenings at 8 p.m. until Labor Day.
Although billed as a comedy, it doesn’t fit neatly into the category, despite the best efforts of slapstick performers Pompey (Richard Massery) and Elbow (Colin Lane). Dealing with themes of truth, justice, mercy and pride, “Measure for Measure” wraps a lot of serious thinking around how easily power can be corrupted.
When a lack of money forces a young Lord Claudio (Matt Cohn) to not post his banns announcing his marriage to Juliet (Francesca Smith), Angelo (Eric Martin Brown) a formidable judge, takes pleasure in declaring them unlawfully wed. Angelo has just been appointed temporary head of the government of Vienna when the true ruler, Vincentio (Mark Zeisler), the Duke of Vienna, leaves the city on a secret mission.
In an abuse of his newly claimed powers, Angelo condemns Claudio to death, even though in many eyes his marriage to Juliet is valid. To save his life, Claudio enlists the aid of his sister Isabella, played by a fiery Sarah Grace Wilson, a novice nun, to intercede with Angelo and beg for mercy. The crafty Angelo declares he will spare Claudio’s life but only if Isabella sleeps with him and gives up her virtue.
Through a series of elaborate trickeries and deceits, as only the Bard can arrange, Claudio’s life is saved as well as Isabella’s virginity, Vincentio reappears as the Friar Lodowick to unmask the villainous Angelo, and Lucio (Aaron Moss), a friend of Claudio’s, who is so busy spreading slander, like peanut butter on whole wheat bread, about both the Friar and the Duke, gets himself figuratively drowning in a vat of grape jelly. James Andreassi directs this dramatically comic offering.
Performances are free but donations ($20 adults, $10 students, $5 children 12 and under) are most welcome. Shows are
evenings at 8 p.m. at Edgerton Park, Cliff Street entrance, New Haven. Bring your own blankets and chairs for easy viewings and snacks to enjoy pre-show. An elaborate castle set provides the perfect backdrop for the action.
A Gala and Auction for the benefit of the Elm Shakespeare Company is set for Thursday, September 1 at 5 p.m. at Edgerton Park. Check online at www.elmshakespeare.org or call 203-393-1436 for ticket information and a list of great auction items.
Corruption bubbles and boils in Vienna as Claudio declares “I hope to live but I am prepared to die” in this involving tale of power gone awry.