Photo by Kayla Michaud |CIGAR| Actors pose after a great performance

The University of Rhode Island Theatre Department has done it once again with their Spring production of William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.”

As I walked into J Studio I immediately had a feel for the play, just based on the set. It had a church theme with graffiti everywhere, causing it to have a more grungy feel. There was also the fact that the stage appeared to be purposely designed in the shape of a penis. Now I know you may be thinking, maybe that is just my opinion, but this interpretation of the play takes place in the 70s, with the birth of the porn industry and AIDS becoming more noticed. This is Shakespeare’s darkest sex comedy, and so it makes sense for the stage to have a “repent and rebel” feel, and a “saintly and groovy” air to it.  The music also perfectly matched the theme with popular 70s music playing as the audience filed into their seats.

Throughout the performance the costumes really helped give the audience an understanding of who the person was, such as high heels and tight dresses, or a full pant suit. Each character clearly established as different people from different classes. With the jean jacket I wore on opening night, I matched J. Edward Clarke as Pompey and the decade quite well. The costumes even showcased flared pants and bright colors which accentuated the personalities of the actors in the play.   

As the lights go down and the actors come out, the audience is immediately bombarded with a transitional hectic scene of grinding and dancing before they all run off stage as the Duke of Vienna begins the act. Before coming to see the play I was aware that it was a Shakespearean comedy, but I do not think I was prepared for how funny it truly was. Of course I cannot give all the credit to Shakespeare’s words because the actors really brought his words to life.

Katherine Templeton as Duke Vincentio was hysterical as she left Lord Angelo in charge and went undercover as friar and helps Isabella save her brother. John Thomas Cunha as Lucio made my abdomen hurt from laughing. His character is the comedic relief in the play, but Cunha really went the extra mile with his over the top dramatics and going with the flow of the other characters. In more serious scenes, like when Lord Angelo attempted to seduce Isabella, the audience gasped out loud and you could hear the communal breath held in.

One thing I thought really helped the audience connect, and understand what was happening in the play, was that the actors interact with audience a lot. From pelvic thrusting in the beginning and making a lot of eye contact and wiggly eyebrows to having your hand shook by the Duke or sitting next to the Provost, it made the audience really feel like this story was happening to them personally.

Overall, I could tell how much hard work and dedication these actors have put in, because oh my Shakespeare there are so many lines and they were constantly moving to different spots and running around. The audience was entertained, entranced, and invested. This was a beautiful interpretation of a centuries old play.

William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, directed by Rachel Walshe, will be performed in the J Studio of the Fine Arts Center, March 1-3 at 7:30 p.m., as well as March 4 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $20 for general admission and $15 for seniors and URI faculty/staff and students.