One of Shakespeare's darkest, surliest, and most intriguing works, Measure for Measure is a verbally ornate scandal sheet, cataloguing every moral failing short of flatulence. Cleveland Public Theatre's production is youthful and vibrant. The performers in the five leads are so highly charged they could light up a skyscraper. Director Timothy Saukiavicus starts out with a ghoulish nod to old decorum in a macabre waltz set to "The Blue Danube," with strutting bad boys and brassy harlots stuffed into evening gowns. He ends with a nasty, nihilistic spin on an already ambiguous work. In this production, everyone's in the gutter, with no one looking up at the stars. Through August 28 at the Cuyahoga County Archives Courtyard. Reviewed August 12.
The new Piece of People, or POP, Theater Company ensconced at the Brick Alley Theatre has hopes to "dissect humanity." To begin the operation, we have Marie Irene Fornes's fascinatingly grotesque fantasia, from its lustful evocation of sow rape to its microscopic depiction of two shack dwellers who destroy their nurturing earth mother. It wallows in its title ingredient. Done with the proper stylized absurdity, this fierce black comedy could be the dank flip side of Noel Coward, a putrid Private Lives. Director Jon Herbert unfortunately treats the play as though it were an exercise in Depression realism. He kills the laughs and produces a rather toxic, dispiriting effect. Like troops sent to the wrong front by a dipsomaniac general, the brave cast wages a bloody battle against grievous odds. Through September 5 at the Brick Alley Theatre. Reviewed August 19.