Theatre for a New Audience presents a new mounting of Shakespeare’s problematic dark comedy, a tale of irrepressible lust, impossible purity, and infuriating hypocrisy. More…
When the Duke of Vienna disguises himself as a friar among his people, he finds the city unraveling in an ethical free fall. Before he reclaims his dukedom, can he help the chaste Isabella save her brother from the condemnation of the villain Angelo? Director Simon Godwin sees 'Measure for Measure' as a high-stakes conflict of clashing ideologies—a tensely diverse world in which incompatible values collide and expose the tenuous boundary between order and anarchy. Due to sexually explicit content, the production is recommended for ages 16 and up.
“Simon Godwin stages ‘Measure for Measure’ in modern dress with fresh bite and emotional immediacy. With a top-notch cast led by Jonathan Cake as the Duke, Godwin brings to light the rich theatrical treasures tucked within this dark play…Although you might disagree with some of his approaches to the dramatic material, his provocative vision of the tragi-comedy will imprint itself on your memory…The cast is superb." Full Review
"Explodes at you from every corner of the stage...Perhaps the most chilling, and disturbingly compelling, element of Godwin’s 'Measure for Measure' is the relationship between women and the law...The actors are so well cast that you lose yourself entirely in their stories. And even if you aren’t looking for political commentary as delivered by Shakespeare this summer, the sheer talent of this cast is worth a trip to Brooklyn." Full Review
"This is dark stuff, but Godwin keeps the proceedings playful...Cake navigates the play’s rough waters heartily. The fiery Ricketts makes Isabella’s anguish soulfully real. And Ryan crafts a cunning portrait of a despot coldly certain of his infallibility. Watching the once-mighty Angelo reduced to a quivering mass is as harrowing as it is satisfying. In an age of outrage, this revelatory 'Measure for Measure' is a cry for hope and reconciliation. " Full Review
"The design elements are well conceived and the casting is stupendous...Ricketts, Ryan, and Cake fearlessly lead this amazing cast and take the audience on a phenomenal journey of desire, doubt, and righteousness...These three actors make bold choices with subtle nuances that set the stage on fire and engage the audience on numerous levels. The final act is superbly directed. The action builds steadily, bringing all the elements of the story to climactic brilliance." Full Review
“Though Godwin's production may not do much to broaden the horizons of the play, and, yes, got a li'l gimmicky, it certainly tells an awesome story well…This production distinguishes itself with some seriously great acting…Shakespeare is rewarding because the works are rich with characters and dynamics and scenarios that cross-mingle morally and ethically and emotionally, creating a web of a good time. 'Measure for Measure' certainly fulfills all of this in its own charming way.” Full Review
"I’m in love with the poetry of Shakespeare, but this play just seemed more accessible. The music, performed by the magnificent band is just as engaging and unique, adding soul to the flavor and the festivities...This provocative production quite readily brings to mind our own highly polarized world...A beautifully crafted production of a complex and problematic play. Repression, lust, hypocrisy, and disturbing sexual politics has never been so much fun or more wildly brought forth." Full Review
"The play feels fresh, timely, and full of contemporary relevance...The story is pretty heavy for a comedy...Simon and his cast, however, keep things light every chance they get. Most of the laughs come from the minor characters...The comedic highlight of the show is Fine, whose outlandish portrayals of four different characters have the audience in stitches...Along with the modern dress, the band's upbeat rock numbers make the action feel current and familiar." Full Review
"A compelling new production...An insightful look at the timelessness of societal conflicts over justice, power, morality and family...While the tidy, but unlikely, resolutions at play’s end are even more implausible than many of the Bard’s other 'problem plays' the message and lesson are louder and more impactful...It isn’t often that one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays gets a major production, so on that basis alone this 'Measure for Measure' is a treat." Full Review
“If you accept that, at its heart, it actually is a comedy, you will find much to like in director Godwin's interpretation…Godwin leans toward the comic, playing up the clowning elements and downplaying, as much as possible, the play's darkness. Things get a bit muddied as a result, and the production goes overboard by drumming up audience participation…Fun stuff, but it doesn't add much to the overall experience or shed light on the proceedings. Still the cast is a strong one.” Full Review
"There is much to like in this production...Godwin nicely guides the story and performers through the different elements of the tale, and the sets and costumes by Paul Wills–the play is done in modern dress–all work well. The only sequence that really doesn’t work is a somewhat extraneous bit which takes place in a nightclub...Well presented, while taking pains not to hit the audience over the head with its message, this production of 'Measure for Measure' is quite the satisfying treat." Full Review
"Leans too heavily on the supposedly funny elements...But in the great confrontations between Angelo and Isabella, this 'Measure for Measure' soars just as it should into that uniquely Shakespearean plane where absolutely opposing philosophies are given equally compelling expression...There is probably no cure for the play’s tonal whiplash...What makes sense in 'Measure for Measure' makes gorgeous sense here, thanks especially to Ms. Ricketts and Mr. Ryan." Full Review
“Godwin’s production takes liberties, and many are smart. (The problem plays usually benefit from a bit of roughing up, although here the themes of lust and moral hypocrisy are still contemporary)…A strong cast boosts the production...Some problems can’t be made fresh…The production’s comedy is less successful...Godwin goes all out for a classic ending…It’s a measure of the production’s virtues that the resolution stretches credibility less than usual." Full Review
"There were moments when I wished Godwin had given less attention to such scene-stealing antics and focused more on the complex psychology of the three lead characters...The second half of Godwin's production is stronger than the first, and everything unquestionably comes together in the climax...At long last, a production that seemed merely trendy reveals how directly it speaks to the present moment." Full Review
“The minimal sets by Paul Wills allow for quick transitions between scenes but offer only a stark sort of atmosphere. His costumes are more successful but only for the comic characters. Matthew Richards' lighting plot has some film noirish effects. While Godwin's ‘Measure for Measure’ is tricked out with a great many unsuccessful contemporary touches, it is left to Shakespeare's story to bring home the dangers of abuse of power and hewing to the letter of the law rather than the spirit.” Full Review
"I do wish directors would be more willing to embrace the ‘Measure for Measure’ I find in this text, the one where Isabella (Cara Ricketts) is sexually blackmailed, deceived into believing her brother is dead, and finally forced into marriage with the man who is responsible for all of this. Vincentio ends the play by cheerfully announcing the nuptials that are practically a requirement for Shakespearean comedy, but it is always Isabella's silence that I find most compelling." Full Review
"Godwin’s music-driven production contains twangy electric guitars and such a large number of silicone penises that they demand a unique collective noun...Among the diverse ensemble, Thigpen and LaVoy stand out. Though, elsewhere, the imprecise caricatures intended as the comic relief start to grate...Ricketts’ virtuous Isabella is pressured and abused but never breaks. It’s a poised and formidable performance." Full Review
“The minimalist environment helps one to focus on the poetry of the text, but its music is hampered by the hodgepodge of accents. Jonathan Cake has the greatest success with the text…A group of talented, quick-witted supporting actors cavort through the narrative with verve and color. Each makes a mark…I found the play too long...it really became burdensome. The energy and focus of the talented cast, however, carried us through the few dragging moments.” Full Review
“Swiftly paced and vigorously, if not subtly, performed…It's filled with the kind of novel touches we expect in such modern-dress affairs…Too much of the dialogue, though, is delivered in rapid, full-throated, rhetorical style;…actors tend to shout at rather than talk with one another…'Measure for Measure' comes, unfortunately, at a moment when it can't help being trumped by a production that received remarkable attention even though many wouldn't give two pence for it.” Full Review
"It’s indicative of how hard it can be to find the right tone for this play, which pogo-sticks from lowbrow gags for the groundlings to highbrow verbal duels for the cognoscenti...What pleasures there are in this production emerge from the excellent verbal thrusts and parries between Angelo and Isabella that ensue in Ryan’s and Ricketts’ assured, low-temperature performances. But this is still that play in which everyone ends up married and nobody wins." Full Review
"This production, ostentatious in its salacity, is part of that modern European tradition that mistakes provocation for insight...When such noisy stage business quieted, the production was powerful; it just needed to give its strong cast the space to act in peace...Best among the actors was Cake...A riveting and lively performance that easily jumped between the deadpan and heartfelt...Thigpen, as Lucio also carefully and cleverly straddled that line between comedy and poignancy." Full Review
“You are never involved. The play has never caught you. Despite moments of anguished appeal, Isabella, the character most likely to touch you, to reach you, just does not, no matter splendid actress Cara Ricketts’s fine efforts…Every other character is similarly flawed, but director Godwin, instead of taking that as the cue to holding the mirror up to us, flaunts his furbelowed production for us to admire…It’s Shakespeare. But there’s that niggling gnaw of disappointment." Full Review
See it if You love Shakespeare but insist the alternative settings make dramatic sense, are curious about how Shakespeare can be relevant today
Don't see it if You only like strict period interpretations of Shakespeare, or just hate Shakespeare
See it if you love Shakespeare and appreciate the universality of his treatments of issues.
Don't see it if you want your Shakespeare set only in Shakespeare's time, and only with stilted, pompous line readings.
See it if You want a remarkably clear and funny take on one of the Bard's most challenging comedies. This may be the best Measure you'll ever see.
Don't see it if You want to see big production values in your Shakepseare, or want it to have an epic feel.
See it if you enjoy a fresh and surprising interpretation of a "problem" Shakespeare play. Godwin is a brilliant director and his actors are superb.
Don't see it if You are offended by modern interpretations of Shakespeare.
See it if You want to see really smart, strong actors (and especially the women!) do an amazing job with a very difficult play
Don't see it if You are turned off by the addition of more modern elements into a shakespeare play (there are drugs and dildos!)
See it if If you like to see out of the box productions of the Bard. Totally refreshing and tons of fun. Loved the band and the immersive touches!
Don't see it if If you want to see a classic production of this play.
See it if you want to see a superbly trained group of actors deliver Shakespeare's text with clarity and the requisite skill, not upset by updating.
Don't see it if you don't like updating even when it's limited and all makes sense.
See it if you want a vivid take on a difficult play, with tremendous acting, compelling staging, and an inspired interpretation
Don't see it if you're a traditionalist when it comes to Shakespeare or generally avoid his work
See it if you want to see a terrific Jonathan Cake performance in a complicated, but fairly easy to follow, Shakespeare production.
Don't see it if you strongly dislike Shakespeare plays.
See it if you like a modern interpretation of Shakespeare's comedy. This is a story of the abuse of political power that is as relevant today as then.
Don't see it if you are a traditionalist. you do not like explicit sexual acts, abuse, and perversion of all sexes. you hold government in high esteem.
See it if you like bold takes on the Bard by engaging, all-in cast & have bandwidth to take in dense text and time (3 hours if you take in "pre-show")
Don't see it if you're not ready for steady barrage of text, wild-at-time theatrics, charming interactive elements, intimate staging, or energetic cast.
See it if you like your Measure for Measure to give equal weight and attention to its excellent comedy and seriously icky darkness
Don't see it if you get turned off by potentially gimmicky fourth wall breaking and audience shenanigans, you don't trust highly stylized shakespeare
See it if Shakespeare's take on sexual harassment and abuse of power would be meaningful to you. Cara Ricketts is a powerfully compelling Isabella
Don't see it if If you think Shakespeare shouldn't make you think. Or if you don't like seeing sex toys with your Shakespeare
See it if You're open to a modern staging, updated to present day Vienna. The 3 lead actors are superb, and the ending will provoke discussion.
Don't see it if You prefer traditional Shakespearean productions in a proscenium theater. For this play, the Polonsky stage is a square thrust.
Also The pre-curtain tour of Mistress Overdone's brothel is a hoot!
See it if you like new approaches to the physical world of Shakespeare. The addition of the Brothel and club during intermission were amazing.
Don't see it if you are expecting complete mastery and a lack of humanity. Or a typical approach to the material.
Get alerts about your favorite artists and theater companies