Ends Nov 12

Measure for Measure (The Public Theater)

Members say: Ambitious, Quirky, Clever, Confusing, Great acting
25 reviews
48 reviews

Elevator Repair Service, the Obie-winning company behind 'Gatz,' returns to The Public to celebrate their 25th season with a new production of Shakespeare’s dark comedy about vice and hypocrisy.

... Read more

With athletic theatricality and Marx-Brothers-inspired slapstick, the ERS ensemble brings new life to this story of impossible moral choices in 17th-century Vienna. Radical experiments with speed set the play’s combination of the comically absurd and the tragically serious in stark relief, and deliver a new show that marries the company’s unique performance style with the Bard’s exquisitely lyrical language. ERS Founder and Artistic Director John Collins directs.


Cast & Creatives (15)

Reviews (73)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

The New York Times

"I usually lower my expectations for 'Measure'...But even in over-conceptualized versions, there’s usually at least one, thought-provoking portrayal that illuminates. Mr. Collins’s production does feature one such performance, from Mr. Shepherd. Mostly, though, it translates the challenges of a notorious problem play into ‘oh, why not?’ parlor tricks and slapstick. Much of the intermissionless, two-hours-plus show is conducted at a rushing tempo that defies comprehension." Full Review


"The lack of clarity seems intentional...The absence of understandable wit makes the evening seem a frenetic blur...But then everything slows down for an emotional scene...If at this point a viewer can moved by the story and characters, it is most likely from previous familiarity with the play...This 'Measure for Measure' appears to be a case of concept over content....If you're not satisfied with the results, you may still find the effort quite admirable." Full Review

Time Out New York

"As far as language goes, the production is often unintelligible...That doesn’t matter in the clown bits, but one misses important information and poetry in other scenes...Yet the show has many compensatory assets...Several performances are delightful...And the production is funny in unexpected ways...Audiences who don’t know 'Measure for Measure' may well find this version confusing. Those who know the text well, however, will find much to enjoy in ERS’s pointed run-through." Full Review


"There's much to recommend 'Measure for Measure' as a play for our times...But there's somewhat less to recommend Elevator Repair Service's new production. John Collins directs the play at a frenetic pace. Though this does make for some high-octane performances, the play's language is sometimes rendered incomprehensible by the rapid-fire delivery...While Elevator Repair Service deserves kudos for pushing the play to its limits, we wish it were a little more measured in pushing us to ours." Full Review

New York Theater

“There are watchable moments, occasional visual appeal in the design, even some touching scenes. But it’s difficult to figure out – or appreciate — what director John Collins is up to…To me, this ‘Measure for Measure’ counts as a missed opportunity...Moments of provocative drama must compete with the broad theatricality of the ERS brand, which can be fun, but persists in this production for more than two hours without intermission, and mostly without letup.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"It's more like 'Highlights from Measure'...Sargeant and Groff are giving what are by far the production's standout performances...Otherwise, under Collins' direction, it's anything goes. Admittedly, 'Measure' is a confounding work...While most productions try to find some rationale for these events, Collins and company throw up their hands, dispensing with psychology altogether...This production has everything but a baseline interest in the text." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Under the direction of John Collins, the cast delivers their lines with such speed that for much of the two hours (no intermission) they are unintelligible...This cast gives it everything they have. The pacing, however, does them in. We cannot follow what we do not understand...The plot is deciphered enough for us to understand the conclusion. By the time it arrives, however, we are almost mad with the desire to flee the sound of this nearly consonant free buzzing and rush out into the night." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“ERS's version of the play…while faithful to the script,…is a mélange of avant-garde tropes that eventually become more important than the play itself. This isn't to deny that occasional flashes of insight occur…The tradeoff, though, is a show so bogged down in gimmickry that you lose interest in the narrative and instead focus on directorial 'ingenuity.'…This 'Measure for Measure' is a solipsistic exercise that serves more to obscure than clarify what's already difficult enough to comprehend.” Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Collins has all cast members hurl themselves into what increasingly turns into an off-putting travesty...Each of thesps is only intermittently allowed to look like more than adequate participants in a third-rate SNL skit. It’s as if, concentrating on Shakespeare for the first time, Collins reckoned that the vaunted canon isn’t much good. As a result, he figured that having his insouciant way with 'Measure' would allow him to call attention to Shakespeare’s sorry deficiencies." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"This troubled play has become even more so...As soon as this show started, it went into gibberish...The actors played around with the language in tonality, most of it shouting or in hideous southern drawls...Not a whole lot of acting was going on unless bizarre slapstick counts...The only moment in the entire production that truly felt relevant was when Isabella and Claudio are in prison...If I had not known the play, I would have been lost in translation." Full Review


“A mess that lands primarily as a showcase for the amazing Scott Shepherd…The effect of John Collins’ gimmicky production is breathless, as if to say let’s race through this and just get to the good parts. But the good parts are nearly as incomprehensible (except when Shepherd is commanding a scene). With the language – especially the good parts – spun into a word smoothie, I couldn’t really tell what the point is.” Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Medium is the message here and that message is pure Shakespeare and pure and unrefined 'Measure for Measure.' Under Collins’s inventive and meticulous direction, the play 'gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil crushed' to a grandeur that defines itself for a new era...ERS’s 'Measure' is itself an exercise in rhythm...Shakespeare’s words scroll across the set in ERS’s 'Measure for Measure' and demand to be reckoned with in new and sometimes uncomfortable ways." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Their tactics fail to engage, and causes the brain, well, at least my brain, to tune out...It is a unique and cerebral approach, filled with wit and cleverness, and I applaud ERS for their bravery, their theoretical ideas, and their willingness to experiment. Unfortunately, the poetry and the musicality is erased, and we are left with a confusing chaotic mess that at moments feel too speedy for its own good, and deadly slow and dull at the same time." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A wildly inventive and often thrilling production...Truly, if the entire cast and the timing of the performances were not so carefully aligned, the entire enterprise would implode on itself and wind up as nothing more than a clever piece of gimmickry. The comedy is spun to the height of ridiculousness, and at a sacrifice to Shakespeare's language...Elevator Repair Service has pulled off a remarkable feat here by using the pacing of the play in support of delineating its serious intent." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Rattling off Shakespearean dialogue as if in a speed-talking contest? That’s just too much of a leap, and apart from occasional laughs and one scene that takes hold emotionally for a short spell, this interpretation is a misguided exercise. That doesn’t mean that the cast isn’t worthy. Working against the text, the actors do their best to interpret the zany plot...They seem to be at home with their top-speed discourse. Of course, this thoroughly vitiates the beauty of Shakespeare’s language." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"As if pressing a fast-forward button, the performers periodically rattle through huge chunks of dialogue at warp speed...Collins thereby sacrifices intelligibility for screwball energy...Intricate even by the Bard’s standards. Bewilderment thus seems inevitable here...Several lively performances nonetheless bring out the play’s bawdy spirit...Simpson’s flair for slapstick also stands out...This production otherwise struggles to carry off its hefty textual burden." Full Review

The Washington Post

"Some virtually unrecognizable version of itself, like an operating room full of inept plastic surgeons botching a facelift...Elevator Repair Service proves here to be wholly out of its element with Shakespeare...The modern-dress actors spit out much of Shakespeare’s language as if they’re in an Olympic speed-reading contest...With this production’s silly affectations, Elevator Repair Service turns a problem play into a merely ridiculous one." Full Review


"ERS takes the play to a new space of feeling and being letting its tragic and comic elements intersect provocatively...The shenanigans interspersed into scenes add zest, but the helter-skelter pacing of the dialogue may have you feeling somewhat confused...It's almost impossible to absorb the text and the stage proceedings simultaneously — but it's exhilarating and fun...Although the ERS venture is off-beat, it remains faithful to Shakespeare's essential dramaturgy." Full Review

Village Voice

“For all the silly, superficial things they do, every detail seems to have been carefully chosen and calculated. It’s just that what they do has so little relation to the story that I thought Shakespeare was telling us...This company uses every kind of effect - But the effects don’t harmonize with each other...These actors are quite talented...They don’t appear to the best advantage here because they are all devoted to this feckless way of taking the play off its conventional pedestal." Full Review

Daily Beast

"As well as an exercise in animating the original text, this production, directed with typical imaginative invention by John Collins, is an exercise in what text is, and how it should be performed...As the Duke (Scott Shepherd) weaves all manner of plot and counter-plot, and the play ends cleverly in total chaos as loose ends are hastily woven together. The company look askance and exhausted—Shakespeare has merrily done them in, and us too." Full Review


"This 'Measure for Measure' is a revelation, a truly expert use of Shakespeare that allows opportunities for rethinking not only theatrical space but the play itself." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“Leave it to the adventurous Elevator Repair Service company to take a challenging Shakespearean text like ‘Measure for Measure’...and turn it into a wacky and wonderful romp...The text is the star of the show – as spoken by the cast and as projected simultaneously on the upstage wall...There’s method in this director’s madness. Ultimately, all these clashing styles coalesce into a glorious, zany, exuberant, hodge-podge whole.” Full Review

The Wrap

"John Collins’ Elevator Repair Service theater company has done some remarkable things with texts. But they stumble badly in their first foray into Shakespeare...Collins & Co. amp up the comedy to a manic, Marx Brothers degree — and completely obliterate any sense of the language of the play...This misfire is no measure of what this remarkable company is capable of doing." Full Review

Stage and Cinema

"Elevator Repair Service imagines this so-called 'problem play' as an irreverent screwball comedy, complete with rapid-fire dialogue and exaggerated transitions...The result is a remarkable piece of theater, and the most immediate, dynamic, and modern staging of a Shakespeare play I have seen...A dramatic dance in which rhythm and timing and the interconnectedness of gestures usurp the power of the text...The production illuminates the play’s essence much more than a literal staging." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"It’s thrilling to see a group of artists throw themselves into a project where there’s the actual risk that the whole thing might go terribly wrong...In this case, some things have gone pretty seriously wrong...There’s so much potential resonance here that it’s maddening to watch the ERS production skate across the play’s surface...Collins is more interested in the game he’s playing with Shakespeare’s text than in its content...Some of the ERS ensemble do manage to rise above the gimmickry." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Excruciating, Torturous, Confounding, Ineffective

See it if ... see it if... if... well... umm... I got nothin'.

Don't see it if you have any respect for Shakespeare, The Public, the Elevator Repair Service or your time. [This ill-conceived MforM is a total misfire.]

Also The positive reviews here are inexplicable to me. It is a rare sight t... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Dizzying, Confusing

See it if you have a grasp of Measureand can follow actors changing characters quickly. It was fast paced and I found myself referring to the plot.

Don't see it if You can't sit through a two+hour show with no intermission

Ambitious, Dizzying, Great writing, Confusing, Disappointing

See it if A beautiful play. Some very nice, touching moments. And shockingly relevant to today.

Don't see it if The director made the weird choice of having the actors speed through much of the script, making it hard to understand.

Clever, Quirky, Great staging

See it if experimental version of shakespeare play. slow at times. Two hours no intermission, great theater group with great talent. funny at times

Don't see it if if you are are tired of measure for measure or do not like video screen words and experimental theater

One scene justifies the entire experiment

See it if you're ok w/ a single, brilliant, 5-10 min. scene that could forever change your reading of MfM even if the other 120 min. are a slog

Don't see it if you’re new to the play and want to understand Measure for Measure; you want a show that’s entertaining the whole time

Also This production speeds through the boring parts of MfM which, accordin... Read more Read less

Funny, Ambitious, Dizzying, Indulgent, Confusing

See it if you'd like Measure for Measure performed with zany hijinx, rapid-fire delivery, and alternately too-fast and too-slow pacing.

Don't see it if the no-holds barred comic performances of the cast aren't enough to sway you to try out this slapstick version of the play.

Ambitious, Dizzying, Great acting, Indulgent, Confusing

See it if you like traditional Shakespearean language, mixed era costumes,typical Elevator Repair Service sets. Not as good as TFANA production

Don't see it if are a traditionalist. They work too hard to break it down

Pointless, Annoying, Banal, Confusing, Excruciating

See it if you enjoy seeing unusual directorial "concepts" of Shakespeare plays, even if they are not always successful.

Don't see it if you love Shakespeare and think that his plays can be done in many ways but should always respect the integrity of the text.

Also One of the central concepts of this interpretation seems to be that th... Read more Read less

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Dizzying

See it if Enjoy a fun, intelligent interpretation of a rarely seen Shakespeare play.

Don't see it if You want a traditional 'reading' of Shakespeare.

Also I am not sure why all the negative reviews. My husband, daughter and m... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Clever, Disappointing

See it if You like the Marx Brothers style of sketch comedy which this production is largely based on.

Don't see it if you don't like people taking liberties with the rhythm of the text.

Funny, Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if You want to watch actors read their speeches from a teleprompter

Don't see it if You like to see Shakespeare's language approached thoughtfully

Clever, Great acting, Quirky

See it if you can keep up with quickly paced Shakespeare

Don't see it if you hate modernized Shakespeare

Ambitious, Dizzying, Great acting, Confusing, Disappointing

See it if The one redeeming quality of the play was the acting. You can take a lot of bad scenes for one or two scenes that get you hooked.

Don't see it if You want to see a semi-normal Shakespeare production that is coherent with pacing and direction that you can follow and understand

Funny, Edgy, Intense

See it if you know the plot in advance-try sparknotes or wikipedia first can wait an hour for the the intense energy to develop looking for an unconve

Don't see it if impatient can't handle a bit of slapstick are bothered by video screen running

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Quirky

See it if You seek out unconventional productions of Shakespeare. This is a challenging interpretation of a "problem" play.

Don't see it if you're a Shakespeare traditionalist or if the very words "avant-garde" turn your stomach. Also it's over 2 hours, no intermission.

Thought-provoking, Quirky, Cliched, Slow, Entertaining

See it if you like off-beat Shakespeare, you enjoy physical comedy, you want to see famous moments of this play in a new & interesting way

Don't see it if you are expecting something groundbreaking, you like traditional Shakespeare, you can't sit for more than 2 hours

During previews
Clever, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if You like Shakespeare and want to see the modern interpretation of his work.

Don't see it if You don't like Shakespeare or want to see it in its original format.

During previews
Confusing, Disappointing, Too long without intermission

See it if you know the story and want to see a different take on or presentation of Shakespeare.

Don't see it if you don’t know the story as you will most likely not understand what the actors are saying especially at 100mph at times.

Also Personally I enjoyed York Theatre Company’s Desperate Measures a lot b... Read more Read less

During previews
Banal, Confusing, Disappointing, Insipid, Clumsy

See it if you don't mind good actors reading their lines really fast from a projection at the back of the theater and an unimaginative boring set

Don't see it if you want to discern the genius of the dialogue which is rattled off often over a lot of background noise. Fine actors but sloppy production

During previews
Unengaging, Unsuccessful, Unintelligible, Unwatchable

See it if you like experimentation for its own sake. The play's NOT the thing, only the playing w/it is. You can't follow MFM, but for some that works

Don't see it if you want engagement; you can't hear WS's glorious words which are spoken at high speed/over constant recorded noise. Unsuccessful concept.

Also This MFM was thoroughly disappointing. Even the production values (cos... Read more Read less

During previews
Absorbing, Dizzying, Intense, Quirky

See it if you know this play and want to see a varying concept/presentation of it as a screwball comedy.

Don't see it if you don't know the play and don't like having to pay attention as actors play multiple roles.

During previews
Funny, Clever, Quirky, Entertaining, Absurd

See it if you're interested in a fast-paced absurdist adaptation of Shakespeare. Great cast with comedic timing. Strange and delightful.

Don't see it if you have no knowledge of the plot/characters in Measure for Measure (could be confusing since the script is edited). Weird, not for everyone

During previews
Clever, Dizzying, Edgy, Quirky

See it if Not your parents measure for measure. A unique twist on this tale by the elevator repair service. Best if you are familiar with the play.

Don't see it if If you only like musicals or light dramas, or if you do not like Shakespeare.

During previews
Ambitious, Intense, Confusing

See it if You like deconstructionist theater. If you are a Wooster Group or ERS fan, you might get something out of it.

Don't see it if You like Shakespeare. Barely there.

During previews
Disappointing, Insipid, Poorly acted, Nonsensical

See it if You want to see everything Elevator Repair Service produces, regardless of quality

Don't see it if You don't think sexual blackmail is farcical, you want actors to actually know their lines, you like it when jokes make sense.