Left to clean up a city rampant with corruption, Angelo lays down the law sentencing a young man, Claudio, to death for impregnating his own girlfriend Juliet before marriage. Angelo’s particular moral weaknesses surface when Claudio’s sister, Isabella, a novice nun, pleads for her brother’s life. For Angelo, Isabella’s beauty and piety hold an erotic charm and he presents her with a shocking proposition. How far will Isabella go to save her brother’s life? Who has true authority to judge another? Shakespeare offers no easy answers in this dark comedy of desires.
Production Team: Desdemona Chiang (Director), Phillip Lienau (Scenic Designer), Christine Tschirgi (Costume Designer), Andrew D. Smith (Lighting Designer), Evan Mosher (Sound Designer), Marleigh Driscoll (Properties Designer), Cristine Reynolds (Stage Manager).
Cast (in alphabetical order): Scott Ward Abernethy (Pompey), Marcel Davis (Provost), Karen Jo Fairbrook (Mistress Overdone), Bradford Farwell (Angelo), Meme Garcia (Sex Worker / Francesca / Ensemble), Tim Gouran (Lucio), Cindy Im (Isabella), Harry Todd Jamieson (Elbow), Sylvester F. Kamara (Escalus), Aishe Keita (Marianna Anna Helene Lewis (Girl at Moated Grange / Ensemble), David Anthony Lewis (Duke of Vienna), Jackie Pomeroy (Ensemble), Carter Rodriquez (Abhorsen / Ensemble), Kalea Salvador (Angelo’s Secretary / Ensemble), Ayo Tushinde (Juliet), Terri Weagant (Kate Keepdown), Moses Yim (Claudio), Jake Ynzunza (Barnadine / Froth).
Vincentio, Duke of Vienna, is concerned that his permissive rule has undermined the morals of his subjects. To avoid responsibility for enforcing older and harsher laws, he leaves the city, placing the government in the hands of Angelo, a man well known for his austerity. Angelo closes the brothels and revives the death penalty for sex outside of marriage.
A young man, Claudio, is arrested and sentenced to death for impregnating his fiancé, Juliet. He implores his sister, Isabella, who is about to take her vows as a nun, to intercede for him. As she pleads for his life, Angelo finds himself passionately attracted to her. He tells her that if she will give him her virginity he will pardon her brother in return. Isabella refuses. Claudio initially agrees that she should in no way yield on his account, but then he becomes fearful and begs her to give in. She declares that she values her virginity more than her brother’s life.
The duke, who has returned to town disguised as a friar in order to check up on everybody, overhears their conversation and offers an alternative plan. Angelo has dumped his fiancé, Marianna, because she has lost her dowry. Despite this she still loves him and agrees to substitute for Isabella in his bed. The ruse succeeds until Angelo reneges on his promise to free Claudio and orders his execution to proceed. Still disguised as the friar, the duke arranges for Claudio to escape. Next he returns to Vienna as the duke. Isabella publicly accuses Angelo of rape by blackmail. Angelo denies it until the duke reveals that, as the friar, he has been privy to everything. Angelo confesses and asks for death, but Marianna and Isabella successfully beg for his life. The duke insists that Angelo marry Marianna, he himself proposes marriage to Isabella, and, finally, to the general relief of all, Claudio is found to be alive.
Adapted from Shakespeare Genealogies by Vanessa James
Click on image to enlarge. Photos by John Ulman