Lust, corruption & the pursuit of justice in Shakespeare BASH’d sharply funny, timely Measure for Measure

Sochi Fried & Geoffrey Armour. Scenic design by Caitlin Doherty. Photo by Kyle Purcell.

 

Shakespeare BASH’d returns to a Toronto pub to present one of the less produced plays of the canon: Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, directed by Catherine Rainville and opening last night at Junction City Music Hall. Given the current #MeToo climate, with powerful and famous—in some cases, respected and even beloved—men called out and taken to court for sexual harassment and assault, and female accusers disbelieved and finding themselves faced with challenging choices, it couldn’t be more timely.

Duke Vincentio (David Ross) is well aware that local laws regarding moral and sexual conduct have gone by the wayside, with officials turning a blind eye to cases of fornication, adultery and sex work. When he decides to get some distance and perspective on his kingdom and people—in what today, we’d call an undercover boss move—he leaves his deputy Angelo (Geoffrey Armour) in charge, with trusted advisor Escalus (Olivia Croft) acting as his second; the Duke tells no one that he’s actually staying in the city, disguised as a Friar as he conducts his observations.

No sooner has Angelo been granted power than he starts rounding up whores, bawds (Lesley Robertson as Pompey) and fornicators, including young Claudio (Jeff Yung), who with the exception of an official ceremony is essentially married to his pregnant love Juliet (Megan Miles). Juliet’s condition protects her from execution, but Claudio is to be put to death for his crime. Claudio’s friend Lucio (Michael Man) informs Claudio’s sister Isabella (Sochi Fried) of her brother’s fate, urging her to plead with Angelo for mercy. When she does so, Angelo’s response is to extort her chastity in exchange for her brother’s life.

Faced with the terrible choice of seeing her brother put to death or surrendering her virtue, Isabella encounters the disguised Duke, who has some interesting information about Angelo, and hatches a plan with her, the maid Mariana (Melanie Leon) and the Provost (Drew O’Hara) to make things right.

With its signature accessible performance and resonant connection with the audience, Shakespeare BASH’d plays up the comedy in this production, however dark at times, to add a spoonful of sugar to this otherwise serious cautionary tale. Angelo’s heavy-handed adherence to the letter of the law, coupled with his vain and entitled sense of virtue and status, make for an ugly and merciless rule—and, like many men in his situation, he believes his power and position make him immune to scrutiny. Who would believe the accusations of a young female nobody? This is how men like him have gotten away with it. The ending is a question mark, making us wonder even about the ‘good guys.’

The ensemble is a finely tuned storytelling delight. Stand-out performances include Armour’s conflicted but entitled Angelo; a dark and corrupt man who struggles with his own lustful desires, he ultimately believes he’s above the law he’s so cruelly enforcing. As Isabella, Fried brings a sense of quiet contemplation, thoughtful oration and fierce vulnerability; Isabella’s genuine goodness and attempt at true justice stand in sharp contrast to Angelo’s hypocritical mask of virtue. Ross gives the Duke a balanced sense of fairness and firmness; progressive where Angelo is regressive, the Duke realizes that the law is a living thing that must reflect the society it rules. Hilarious, sharp-witted comic turns from Man, as the incorrigible scallywag Lucio; and Robertson, as the delightfully coarse Pompey. And shouts to producers/co-founders Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis for stepping in with outstanding comic timing and panache—and off book!—for actor Cara Pantalone (as Mistress Overdone, Froth and Abhorson), who was off sick with no voice last night. The show must, and does, go on.

Lust, corruption and the pursuit of justice in the face of merciless hypocrisy in Shakespeare BASH’d sharply funny, timely Measure for Measure.

Measure for Measure continues at Junction City Music Hall till May 6; advance tickets available online ($20) or at the door ($25 cash only). The first half of this short run is sold out, and there’s limited availability for Friday-Sunday. Tickets are going fast, so book in advance or arrive extra early to get on the wait list.

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Panto-style comedy fun for all ages – Cabbagetown Theatre’s Cinderella…if the shoe fits!

So much fun this afternoon at the 1 p.m. matinée of Cabbagetown Theatre’s Cinderella…if the shoe fits!

Writer/director Kim Sprenger had a hand with the script from Liam Doherty, Stephen Flett and assistant director Basil Tamkei, as well as the cast; this is a show that was written with both adults and kids in mind, with plenty of laughs and fun for everyone. Cinderella features an amazingly funny and talented group of actors, including Cabbagetown Theatre veteran Wendy Akerboom (Fairy Godmother), Adriana Crivici (stepsister Willa), Michael Man (Prince Charming), Jennifer Monteith (Cinderella), Eunjung Nam (stepsister Nilla) and Tennille Read (Stepmama).

A small but appreciative audience came out for the second matinée of the day (they do 5 shows a day on Sat. & Sun.), braving the rain to join in the fun. And what big fun it was! Akerboom is hilarious as the saucy Scottish Fairy Godmother, opening the show reading Fifty Shades of Grey to herself (a little something for the grown-ups in the audience) – as this is a family show, she was reading silently – then asking the audience for a suitable family-friendly story to tell. Monteith is adorable as the BBQ-loving Cinderella, dreaming of being invited to a party as a guest one day, instead of as the hired help. Crivici is hysterically goofy as stepsister Willa, while Nam is a riot as the vacuous mean girl stepsister Nilla – and Read takes the mean hot mama role to a whole new level with her cougar on the prowl Stepmama, ginormous fake eyelashes, slinky dress and all. Man gives Prince Charming a sweet, dreamy gentlemanly quality, politely putting up with the step family’s shenanigans during his pursuit of the lovely, mysterious young woman he danced with at the ball.

The minimalist and colourful set, designed by Debbie Wong, evoked a fairytale world with its painted canvas backdrop and hanging printed fabric. And some really nice staging too, from the various styles of dance choreography employed during the ballroom scene to the slow motion action of the step family tossing Cinderella into the cellar when the Prince comes to call with the glass slipper. Engaging and inclusive, there’s audience participation – and you may be the one to catch Stepmama’s eye.

A nice modern adaptation of the story, with references to Facebook, Twitter and texting. And I loved the modern-day ending too – but you’ll have to go see that for yourself. It’s a happy finale for all, as the Fairy Godmother gets things going, inspiring an all-out dance party that segues into the curtain call – all to the music of Spirit of the West’s “Home for a Rest.” And you gotta love that.

You still have several chances to see Cinderella…if the shoe fits! Tomorrow (Sun, Sept 9), there are five matinée performances: noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. & 4 p.m. at the Necropolis Chapel (200 Winchester St., Toronto – across from Riverdale Farm). The show runs about 30 minutes and tickets are $5.   http://cabbagetowntheatre.com/

And, while you’re there, check out the vendors and exhibits at the festival. The Cabbagetown Festival, which also wraps up tomorrow.   http://www.cabbagetownfestival.org/

Just in case you missed these pics from the teaser post, here they are again:

Wendy Ackerboom as the Scottish Fairy Godmother
Jennifer Monteith as the BBQ-obsessed Cinderella
Eunjung Nam & Adriana Crivici as Willa & Nilla

 

Big wacky panto fun coming up with Cinderella…if the shoe fits! @ Cabbagetown Festival

Get ready for some big wacky fun with Cabbagetown Theatre’s panto production of Cinderella…if the shoe fits! at this year’s Cabbagetown Festival, opening Friday, September 7 at the Necropolis Chapel.

Here’s what the folks at Cabbagetown Theatre have to say about the production:

Join the adventures of a BBQ-obsessed Cinderella as she attempts to break a branch off the family tree and escape the torments of her nasty family. Fairy Godmother lends a helping hand to get Cinderella to the Prince’s Ball, where she must compete against her dance-challenged stepsisters and man-magnet Stepmama for the Prince’s affections. Will the shoe fit? Audiences will have to find out!!

Cinderella…if the shoe fits! is written and directed by Kim Sprenger, featuring the talents of returning favourite Wendy Akerboom as Fairy Godmother with Jennifer Monteith as Cinderella; Tennille Read as the cougar-iffic Stepmama; Adriana Crivici and Eun Jung Nam as the nasty stepsisters, Willa and Nilla; and Michael Man as the ever-so-charming Prince.

Cinderella…if the shoe fits! runs at the Necropolis Chapel (200 Winchester St., Toronto – across from Riverdale Farm) Fri, Sept 7 – Sun, Sept 9. Performances are: Fri, Sept 7 at 7:30  p.m., with shows at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. & 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The show runs 30 minutes and tickets are $5.   http://cabbagetowntheatre.com/

And, while you’re there, check out the vendors and exhibits at the festival. The Cabbagetown Festival runs Thurs, Sept 6 – Sun, Sept 9.   http://www.cabbagetownfestival.org/

Wendy Ackerboom as the Scottish Fairy Godmother
Jennifer Monteith as the BBQ-obsessed Cinderella
Eun Jung Nam & Adriana Crivici as Willa & Nilla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: In the post about TIFF, I incorrectly listed the opening as this past Sunday (which was actually the day single tickets went on sale). The festival opens today (Thurs, Sept 6). The error has been corrected in the original post.