The old world rubs right up against contemporary views in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Measure for Measure directed by Desdemona Chiang at the Center Theatre at Seattle Center.
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?
“It has always felt like a very contemporary play. It’s very cosmopolitan,” said director Desdemona Chiang at the first rehearsal for Measure for Measure. “It is Shakespeare’s most urban and global play, in a multifaceted civic setting — streets and alleys, brothels, courthouses, prisons, shelters, and churches — and in it, we recognize our own cities and communities, imperfect as they are.” It was important for Chiang and her design team to find a locale where contemporary people live and are surrounded by the vestiges of an older world. “It’s the cathedral that’s been there for a thousand years, yet there’s a Starbucks inside,” said Chiang. The Vienna of this Measure for Measure has problems of poverty, education, prostitution, and corruption. The new government tries to clean things up, yet some of these activities drive the economy of the city. Which will take precedence – the law of morality or the law of economics?
Chiang makes her Seattle Shakespeare Company directing debut with Measure for Measure. She is the co-founder/artistic director of Azeotrope where she directed Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, Red Light Winter, and 25 Saints. Other directing credits include: Playmakers Rep, Aurora Theatre Company, Crowded Fire Theatre Company, Playwrights Foundation, Golden Thread Productions, Washington Ensemble Theatre, One Minute Play Festival, University of Washington, and Cornish College of the Arts, among others.
Actress Cindy Im makes her Seattle Shakespeare Company debut in the role of Isabella. Bradford Farwell, (previously seen in Cymbeline, 2011) plays Angelo, and David Anthony Lewis (previously seen in Henry IV, 2008) plays the Duke. They lead a cast that totals 19 actors. This is the third time Seattle Shakespeare Company has produced Measure for Measure in its 24 year history