MEASURE FOR MEASURE by William Shakespeare, directed by Sue Miner, with Leanna Brodie, Michael Proudfoot, Adrian Griffin, Sanjay Talwar, Richard Alan Campbell, Kevin Hammond, Anthony Malarky, Cheryl McNamara, Jane Moffat and Julie Tepperman. Presented by Shakespeare in the Rough in Withrow Park (between Logan and Carlaw, south of Danforth). Runs to September 3, Thursday-Friday 7 pm, matinees Friday-Sunday and September 3 at 2 pm. 416-588-7837, ext 4. Rating: NNN
shakespeare offers no easy defi-nitions of justice and mercy in Measure For Measure. With a judge, a ruler and a nun-to-be as its central characters, the work plays with guilt and forgiveness in a thorny, complex fashion, providing no clear-cut answers to the human dilemmas it raises.After a shaky opening in which the Duke (Adrian Griffin) -- here a leather-panted, T-shirted punk rocker presiding over a constant party -- turns his domain over to the seemingly incorruptible magistrate Angelo (Michael Proudfoot), Sue Miner's clever outdoor production settles down to mine the play's emotions and laughs. It's done with zest, especially in the comic work of Kevin Hammond, Anthony Malarky, Cheryl McNamara and Julie Tepperman.
But Miner doesn't neglect the larger issues in a production that shows us "offstage" scenes of prisons and monasteries. Griffin handles both text and argument nimbly as the Duke, masquerading as a philosophical friar, while Proudfoot comes into his own when Angelo turns lascivious blackmailer. Jane Moffat offers flustered charm and a touch of dyke sensibility to the cross-cast role of Escalus, Angelo's second-in-command, while Sanjay Talwar as the condemned prisoner Claudio pleads for the necessity of sin with casuistic fervour.
Standouts in the cast? Richard Alan Campbell's dark, lusty Lucio, a quick-tongued shyster who can't keep his mouth shut, and Leanna Brodie's intense, focused Isabella, the novice nun who is Angelo's intended prey. You can see Isabella's feelings and thoughts fly across Brodie's face as she moves from innocent to worldly woman discovering the true nature of mercy.