Driving a Hard Bargain

Comic competence in Shakespeare's tale of sexual blackmail.

Daniela Melgar as Isabella, David van Wert as Angelo.

When the Duke of Vienna feels out of touch with his people, he decides to live among them disguised as a friar. No one notices because he wears rosary beads. In his absence he leaves a judge, Angelo, in charge, and Angelo uses his new position of power and influence to address the most important issues of the 17th century—specifically, to punish young people having sex. Bad news for Claudio, who recently impregnated Juliet before their wedding. Off with his head! Angelo, though, is hot for a nun who happens to be Claudio’s sister, Isabella. If she’s willing to sleep with him, he might show her brother some mercy. But Isabella is busy saving it for the Lord, so, in the Shakespearian spirit, a plan must be concocted. It’s a funny premise (sort of), but not an especially funny play. Ghost Light has staged a competent production, focusing largely on Measure for Measure‘s social implications. (And indeed it’s easy to be reminded of hypocritical politicians obsessing over sexual morality.) The few sincere comic moments come mostly from Claudio’s friend Lucio (Jeff Pierson) and from Pompey (Matt Lyman), an outspoken barman.

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