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Arts and Entertainment

Sex and Politics in Measure for Measure at A Noise Within

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Karron Graves and Geoff Elliott in Measure for Measure. (Photo courtesy of A Noise Within.)
Measure for Measure is currently running as part of A Noise Within's 19th season. Sex, politics, and sexual politics drive William Shakespeare's characters to coup and clique amid moody corruption and tender sympathy. Under the sleek and shadowy direction of Michael Murray, this postmodern-before-its-time classic is an urbane stew of contemporary flare thick with the harnessed energy of veteran company performers.The production brims with flawlessly executed performances. Karron Graves leads the cast in the challenging role of Isabella, an unlikely heroine that is neither self-assured nor completely endearing. Contending with the inward dissonance of this central character, she plays the wide-eyed fledgling nun with an unsettling blend of calculated restraint and earnest cunning. Graves is a projectile weapon on stage - she diligently maintains her hold on Isabella, gathers dramatic momentum, then showers the audience with an explosive release or passion and tears that continue to sting the heart well after the curtain has fallen.

Geoff Elliott is a tantalizing guilty pleasure in the antagonist role of Angelo, the formidable acting deputy. Elliott plays the part of bad guy like a Shakespearean Gordon Gekko - mostly unlikable, certainly threatening, but deliciously thrilling none the less. Elliott's delivery is striking as he expertly injects an undercurrent of mocking irony into Angelo's weakness-tinged aggression.

Robertson Dean tenderly shepherds the audience through Shakespeare's twisted plot as the Duke. His performance is marked by subtle transitions and gentleness. Dean is wholly convincing and even those in the audience familiar with Measure for Measure will forget that the Duke spends the majority of his performance in humble disguise.

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Impressive performances are also given by supporting players. Steve Weingartner beautifully captures empathy and compassion through an intriguing noir-styled interpretation of Provost the prison warden. And Mark Bramhall's Pompey the pimp is tailor-made for Los Angeles audiences. Bramhall churns out comedic stage-stealing laughs as if he were an embodiment of our gloriously tacky and seedy Hollywood Boulevard come to life.

The entire production takes place devoid of old-school Elizabethan fashion clichés within the context of an impressively modern, surprisingly cool set. Stephan Gifford's set design and Julie Keen's costuming give aesthetic relevancy to this 400 year old play for audiences of this century.

Measure for Measure is playing at A Noise Within until December 5, 2010 at 234 S. Brand Boulevard, Glendale, CA 91204. Tickets can be obtained via phone at 818-240-0910 or online at www.anoisewithin.org.