In 2019, one can’t mount a production of any single of Shakespeare’s plays without the obligatory questions of contemporary relevance. Perhaps more than ever, the way Shakespeare’s prose wades into the murky waters of love, betrayal, and builds, just as elegantly, the dams of logic, law and order around them proves imminently timeless. Lucky are we, then, that Repercussion Theatre’s annual Shakespeare-in-the-Park is this summer presenting “Measure for Measure”, a morality tale that dives deep, investigating justice as it stands between love and death, pulling off another highly engaging and entertaining interpretation of the Shakespeare canon.
Amanda Kellock is the Artistic Director of Repercussion Theatre and the director for this year’s production, capably stewarding the ship with intelligence and grace. Shakespeare-in-the-Park is one-of-a-kind, requiring a similarly unitary individual at its helm – kudos to her for bringing this team together. A large part of the production’s charm lies in being outdoors, surrounded by nature and community. But don’t let this take away from the efforts of the team behind the stage: Amy Keith as the set designer, constructing a detailed and lively world for the actors to play in; Diana Uribe as the costume designer, unearthing these character’s personalities and their societal roles – which play heavily into the tale’s themes – through colourful, playful garb; sound design by Evan Stepanian, effortlessly keeping the show’s pace through buoyant, underlying beats and rhythms; lighting design by Adam Walters, playing wonderfully off the setting sun, illuminating each sordid act with precision as darkness falls around the players, literally and metaphorically; Bryan Doubt as the Shakespeare coach, lending to the actor’s thorough and evocative performances of the bard’s intricate language; and everyone else offstage bringing this joyful production together. Special mention to Apprentice Stage Manager Heather Ellen Strain for refitting an actor’s malfunctioning microphone live, on stage, without breaking a sweat.
As for the performances, prepare to be greeted by a warm and capable troupe of actors, each imbuing their characters with specificity and heart. Trevor Barrette alternates between punchy physical comedy as Elbow and pained grief as Claudio, charming the audience as both. Samantha Bitonti makes us double over laughing as Froth before freezing us solid with her gravity as Isabella, a woman faced with impossible decisions before domineering and manipulative men. Alex Goldrich is one of said men, seething with contempt and forcing our skin to crawl as Angelo – all while managing a mic change with aplomb. Colin Heath alternates between Friar Peter Thomas and Pompey, bringing just the right amount of lightheartedness to this actually quite harrowing tale. Matthew Kabwe lords over all as Duke Vincentio with benevolence and grace, mischievously guiding these characters to their fates. Qianna Macgilchrist handles quadruple duty, switching between her four characters with the precision of a seasoned pro. Anton May brings his wit and charm as Lucio, playing audience surrogate with watchful and expressive eyes. Gabriela Petrov brings a lucidity to her roles as Provost and Bawd, matching Provost’s attentiveness through careful character work. Anne-Marie Saheb plays her oppositional parts with a similar talent, somehow making a love for the odious Angelo believable. And Nadia Verrucci rounds out the cast as Escalus and Barnardine, bringing a necessary severity whenever the proceedings lean too far into ribaldry.
Working as a seamless unit, the performers bounce and play off one another, delighting the audience and keeping us engaged from start to finish. Were this production in any old theatre, it would be a success. But there is something natural and peaceful about experiencing the outdoors – the open air, the people, young and old – while taking in this piece. Indeed, the play’s best moment was nothing short of divine intervention: the characters, deathly still, and audience, equally silent, wait for Isabella to share her fateful decision. She walks slowly around the stage, and as she does, the wind picks up, softly at first, then quite rapidly as she faces the audience. The trees surrounding the audience begin to sway, lending a new and unexpected dramatic ambience. No sound save for the ceaseless rustling of the wind between the leaves; the star of the show, nature, giving new life to the proceedings.
Be sure to catch Shakespeare-in-the-Park at a parc near you to experience this wonderful comingling of nature and art.
Repercussion Theatre presents its 2019 Shakespeare-in-the-Park summer touring production of “Measure for Measure”
Free Admission (Freewill Donations Gladly Accepted)
July 11th to August 11th
Tour dates/full schedule: