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Measure for Measure (TFANA)

Members say: Great acting, Great staging, Entertaining, Clever, Absorbing
21 reviews
48 reviews

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.

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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.


Cast & Creatives (19)

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Reviews (69)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

The New York Times

"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


"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

Lighting & Sound America

"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

Theatre's Leiter Side

“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

Front Mezz Junkies

"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

Front Row Center

“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 really became burdensome. The energy and focus of the talented cast, however, carried us through the few dragging moments.” 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


“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

Time Out New York

"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

Theater Pizzazz

"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


“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

Off Off Online

“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

Stage Buzz

"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


"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

The Stage (UK)

"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


“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

More Than The Play Blog

"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

Plays to See

"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

Stage Buddy

“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

Slant Magazine

"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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Masterful, Entertaining

See it if You like original productions with great staging, acting and directing

Don't see it if You're not a theater lover

Clever, Refreshing, Relevant

See it if You enjoy modern takes on Shakespeare with clever directing choices.

Don't see it if You want a balanced cast (found the Duke to be an unclear actor)

Interesting if unconvincing interpretation, Verse generally well spoken, Low comedy scenes labored

See it if you want to see a novel interpretation of a play with notably slippery changes of tone. Nice musical interpolations and live musicians.

Don't see it if you don't like modern versions of Shakespeare

Relevant, Disappointing, Dated, Great staging

See it if A great use of space and a great effort to bring new life into this dated work.

Don't see it if There seems to be no redeeming this play. The acting was not on par with the rest of TFANA's great season.

Funny, Great acting, Overrated, Slow, Great staging

See it if You like unusual staging of a classic and like to see how the director calls out certain similarities between the old text & current times

Don't see it if You have seen Measure for Measure before and didn't like it. Or are a Shakespeare purist.

Also I never saw Measure for Measure live and the actors and staging of thi... Read more Read less

Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

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.

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting

See it if You wanna see amazing actors bring a troublesome text to vivid life.

Don't see it if I'm biased. It's my favorite play. The acting and directing were phenomenal. New Deal tickets for twenty dollars!

Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging, Oddly satisfying

See it if you want to see a well-acted, nicely staged, very creative presentation of a fairly bad play. All leads outstanding.

Don't see it if you expect high-end traditional Shakespeare, don't appreciate bawdy humor, know/hate this awkward play

Also As you enter, you may come in through the "brothel" or via the main en... Read more Read less

Great acting, Quirky, Resonant, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if enjoy well done translations/interpretations of Shakespeare. Story is fair but actors put it over

Don't see it if you are a Shakespeare purist

Funny, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow

See it if you want to see a bold and risk-taking adaptation with strong acting, particularly by Ricketts. The comedic parts were truly funny.

Don't see it if The first act dragged so much; I noticed many audience members yawning and even sleeping. Second act was much more energized.

Great acting, Slow, Dated, A true problem play

See it if it's a really good cast in a really mediocre play; it's not called a "Problem" play for nothing--and Act 1 drags

Don't see it if Want a comedy that's funny, or a true Shakespearean tragedy--the show just doesn't know what it wants to be

Edgy, Great acting, Intelligent, Quirky, Great staging

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.

Absorbing, Edgy, Quirky, Over-the-top, Long

See it if you like modern WS. The verse is mostly well-spoken. Ricketts stands out; every word/gesture seems real. I liked the emphasis on comedy.

Don't see it if This MFM is highly imaginative, sometimes too much so. Sex toys abound; a convict poops, all is presented on a huge "table" w/bad sightlines

Also I liked MFM as a "dark comedy" and not just as a problem play. The com... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you like great staging of Shakespeare's plays. This company is great at staging and Polonsky theater is ideal for Shakespeare.

Don't see it if you don't like Shakespeare or play Measure for Measure. I think the dialogue for this play is Shakespeare's worst.

Also The story for Measure for Measure is good, the characters very interes... Read more Read less

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging

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.

Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You see this problematic play as living theater.

Don't see it if You prefer your Shakespeare as a museum piece.

Also Loud, bawdy, romantic, political (is it an accident that the two leadi... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Quirky, Riveting, Entertaining

See it if You want to see """""""Measure for Measure""""""" (and also great acting)

Don't see it if You want to see "Measure for Measure"

Also So this production basically ignores the text's actual meaning and ins... Read more Read less


See it if You like your Shakespeare a bit overripe. This is aimed about 85% at the groundlings among us, right from the stroll through the bordello.

Don't see it if You have more interest in the interplay of corruption, crime, punishment, virtue, impropriety, weakness and justice.

Great acting, Quirky, Great writing, Hilarious, Entertaining

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.

Also Jonathan Cake leads a brilliant cast in a wonderful look into the "rea... Read more Read less

Indulgent, Great writing, Disappointing, Dated, Muddle-headed

See it if you already know the play and are willing to put up with a badly cast and directed production to see a strongly performed Isabella.

Don't see it if you have a chance or a hope to see a well-conceived and adequately cast production of a fascinating play.

Also Many of the actors and most of the directorial conceits would not pass... Read more Read less

Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Great staging

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.

Absorbing, Clever, Epic, Great acting, Great staging

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!)

Ambitious, Good acting over reaching direction




Funny, Absorbing, Ambitious, Entertaining, Encompassing

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.

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Relevant

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