Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Director to Adapt Each of Shakespeare's Plays #17 -- MEASURE FOR MEASURE directed by Neil LaBute

The Plot:

Claudio’s been having pre-marital sex with his fiancee. Unfortunately for him, he knocks her up at a time when the local authority is really cracking down on that kind of thing. All of a sudden, he’s a dead man walking. There’s a glimmer of hope though. His sister, Isabella, a nun-in-training, goes to Angelo to plead for her brother’s life and finds that he is more than willing to pull a few strings – as long as she has sex with him. Holy hypocrisy, Batman! Isabella tells her brother that he needs to start packing for Purgatory, but fortunately for everybody (except Angelo), the vacationing Duke has been in disguise all this time watching the events unfold.

Why Labute?

Nobody can create an a--hole like Neil LaBute can. And as Shakespearean a--holes go, Angelo may rank behind only Iago and Richard III. He does not even get to complete his intended crime, but there is something about the way that he abuses genuine human love in order to fulfill his lustful desires that is just appalling. Think of LaBute’s shocking debut In the Company of Men and how sick you felt when the manipulative game was finally revealed. That’s kind of the effect that Angelo can have on an audience. This is another case where the category ‘comedy’ is very deceiving, as there are few moments of mirth in Measure for Measure. Indeed, it is a dark, cynical play in which even the heroine is difficult to embrace wholeheartedly. We may support her devotion to her faith, but to let her brother die? Perhaps the strongest evidence for LaBute’s suitability to adapt Measure for Measure comes from his stage play Bash, which he directed for Showtime. In Bash, he draws from Greek tragedy to bring together three tales of misguided faith and pointless violence. This, combined with his wicked sense of humor, his theatrical roots and the effortless way he conjures up vile manipulators make LaBute more than qualified to take on Measure for Measure.

LaBute films I have seen:

1. In the Company of Men ****
2. Your Friends and Neighbors ***1/2
3. Possession ***
4. Nurse Betty ***
5. The Shape of Things **1/2

LaBute plays worth reading: Bash, The Mercy Seat


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