Although Cleveland Public Theatre's M4M features an all-male cast performing Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, "It's not a gay version," says director Craig George. "But people will filter it through their own sensibilities." All the same-sex hand-holding, kissing, and courting is nothing new. Back in the Bard's day, all roles were performed by men on the playwright's Globe stage. Also, "Shakespeare was hot on gender identity," says George. "We're not attempting to fool the audience. We want them to always be aware that these are men playing women."
Part comedy, part tragedy, Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare's most sex-obsessed plays. Protagonist Claudio is arrested for knocking up his girlfriend. Much role-swapping ensues as various characters attempt to free him. George says M4M's biggest challenge wasn't adapting the script to accommodate his manly cast, but juggling six actors in 18 different roles. "I have to remind some of them to shave," he says. "They're not mimicking women, though. They're looking for their softer, gentler aspects basically the female sides of themselves."
Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Sept. 28. Continues through Oct. 14