Measure for Measure


Through Aug. 31

Tickets are $25-49

(510) 548-9666

Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, Gateway Boulevard off Highway 24, Orinda

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The set for Daniel Fish's version of Measure for Measure, produced by the California Shakespeare Theater, is webbed with an overhead network of fluorescent lights. The corridors of power under the Duke of Vienna here look suspiciously like a modern jail or a public high school (take your pick), with harsh bells signifying the end of certain scenes, Lucio the eccentric dressed as an Ali G.­style hip hop buffoon, the lovers Claudio and Juliet looking like an American teen couple, and a languid-eyed Girl -- not in Shakespeare's original script -- lazily doing homework and walking off to dinner with certain older men. Not all of this experimentation works, but the supporting cast is terrific: Andy Murray as Lucio, James Carpenter as Escalus the "ancient lord," and Gerald Hiken (in drag) as Mistress Overdone help keep this heavy barge afloat. In contrast, Bruce McKenzie as Angelo, the duke's deputy, who sentences Claudio to death for "promiscuity" with Juliet, is not always in command of his lines, and Carrie Preston as Isabella, the nun asked to give up her virginity to save Claudio's -- her brother's -- life, seems stiff except in her speeches. Michael Emerson is the Duke of Vienna, creeping around in disguise as a friar to observe his power-mad deputy. Emerson toured the country a while ago as Oscar Wilde in Gross Indecency, and his swish, clever performance in this play is marvelous.

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