By Sarah Kinkade
The irony is not lost as the audience settles into what was once the Middlesex County Courthouse. Every detail, from the image of Lady Justice on the floor to the hanging American flags, paints the picture of the American justice system. The audience is seated on both sides of the room, giving them the position of jurors about to review the events of a crime. This is appropriate, seeing how they are about to see Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, a play involving corruption, arrests, power, hypocrisy and the importance of justice versus mercy.
The play was carefully chosen for a list inspired by the movement #FergusonSyllabus, made popular by Twitter, which aims to use theater to bring awareness to what is going on in the world, particularly concerning American politics in relation to the events of Ferguson, and the conversations needed to have in order to make a difference. This goal has definitely been achieved with this interpretation of Shakespeare’s play.
Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, this ASP production stays true to Shakespeare’s original text while beautifully connecting its subject matter to today’s political issues. With the use of sound effects, modern music, and dramatic lighting, the serious themes of the play are emphasized to reflect how these intense problems still exist. However, what is one of the most incredible aspects about this performance is the actors’ abilities to bring forth Shakespeare’s humor and fill the room with laughter without losing track of their main goal.
The dedication of the actors is immediately apparent; each one knows his or her characters inside and out. Many of the actors have multiple roles and are able to seamlessly transition between them through the use of unique costumes and distinctively strong personalities. There is never any confusion as to which character is meant to be on-stage.
The compelling personality of each character is truly captivating and ensures there is never a dull moment. It also helps that each actor knows exactly what his or her lines are meant to convey and they cleverly use body language, inflections and facial expressions to get their message to the audience, a very significant skill to have when modernizing Shakespeare.
Both compelling and entertaining, Megan Sandberg-Zakian’s directed production is definitely an event that is not to be missed.
(Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s production of “Measure to Measure” continues through February 1 at the Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St., Cambridge, Mass. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. on Saturday; and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. For tickets, visit http://actorsshakespeareproject.org.)