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The poor Shakespearean diction practiced by much of the show's collegiate supporting cast undercut the effectiveness of the Peace College Theatre's occasionally hilarious and always imaginative Feb. 11-18 presentation of Elizabethan dramatist William Shakespeare's classic "dark" comedy, Measure for Measure. Reset in an insane asylum in Freudian Vienna and directed with great brio by Peace College associate professor of theatre Dr. Kenny C. Gannon, this bold restaging of Measure for Measure starred Jay O'Berski as Vincentio, the wise and benevolent duke of Vienna, and Lissa Brennan as his greedy and depraved Machiavellian deputy Angelo, who has just cruelly rejected and callously discarded his devoted fiancée Mariana (Maggie Cochran), because her dowry was lost.
When Vincentio pretends to leave the country, and turns day-to-day governance of his duchy over to Angelo, the corrupt deputy immediately begins to hand out extreme punishments — even death — for others' sexual peccadilloes, while shamelessly trying to seduce poor, innocent Isabella (Gina Kelly), a novice in a nunnery. Angelo has great power over Isabella, because he has already sentenced her brother Claudio (Nicole Quenelle) to death for impregnating his fiancée Juliet (Melli Lopresti), and Isabella is desperately trying to convince Angelo to spare Claudio's life.
Meanwhile, the duke, who has only pretended to leave Vienna, sashays through the halls and padded rooms of the asylum dressed in drag and high heels as a nurse (not a friar, as in the original script). (Jay O'Berski's performance as Nursey may be his funniest performance in drag since he played the title role in The Mystery of Irma Vep by Charles Ludlum.)
Lissa Brennan is amusing as the hypocritical sexual harasser Angelo. But her spastic performance as the bawd Mistress Overdone is, well, overdone.
Gina Kelly is good as the undersexed Isabella, and Nicole Quenelle contributes a nice cameo as the oversexed Claudio. And Maggie Cochran is cute as poor discarded Mariana.
Director Kenny Gannon has added an apt song from Hair, a cute puppet show, and all sorts of inspired monkey business to this show. But, unfortunately, most of O'Berski and Brennan's collegiate cohorts have not mastered the Shakespearean diction sufficiently to make forceful speeches without shouting. And far too much of the poetry and the meaning of Measure for Measure was lost in the shouting.
Peace College Theatre: http://www.peace.edu/theatre/.