By CONNIE STRAWBRIDGE

For The Union Democrat

A performance with heart, Murphys Creek Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” opened strong.

The actors gave it their all and the sets and costumes were artful and an interesting cross-section between medieval times and the late 20th century, thanks to the influence of director/set designer Raquel Ruelas, and scenic artist Lisa Garcia.

Mastering Shakespeare would be a challenge to any modern-day person. One imagines the necessity of repeatedly pouring over the lines of the play to gain full understanding and memorization, thus translating the message to the audience through body language.

The preservation of this genre and works of this iconic playwright is undying, though shrinking. Perhaps parallel to a musician’s desire to master all aspects of the art is an actor’s motivation to step up to the challenge and embody a Shakespearean performance.

Set in Vienna, “Measure for Measure” centers around the fate of Claudio (David Garcia), who is sentenced to death for impregnating his betrothed out of wedlock. Duke Vincentio (Graham Green) is troubled by the loose climate of his jurisdiction and decides to appoint a temporary proxy nobleman, Angelo (Andrew Sutherland), to rule over the people while he takes a leave of absence.

Disguised as a monk, the Duke observes his dominion and counsels Isabella with a clever plan to save her brother. Sutherland gives a powerful performance as he sentences poor, young Claudio to an untimely end, while committing, himself, a more sinister version of the same supposed crime.

MCT veteran Sara Garcia is an amazing and versatile actress. She plays Mistress Overdone, Julietta and Mariana — moving easily and effectively from character to character.

Emily Kentta portrays Isabella, the sister of Claudio, who is a novice about to take her vows when she discovers that her brother has been sentenced to death.

The suggestive tattler, Lucio (Forrest Lark), delivers a message to Isabella from Angelo advising that there is a way to stop her brother’s execution, which involves abandoning her virtue. Lark does comedic justice to the character of Lucio, while Isabella gives a convincing and seamless performance as Claudio’s conflicted sister.

Other actors in the ensemble are Travis Blansit, who plays Pompey, the pimping bartender, and John Baker, who plays the dual characters of Provost the jailer and the good friar.

Escalus, the kind-hearted elder lord advisor to the Duke, does not approve of over severity. Carl Bengston is effective in this role and the chemistry with Green is compelling.

Inconsistency in human equality, as it pertains to justice, is the theme of this play. It seems to be a recurring phenomenon in human civilization — even today — subjective to class and position. The resolution in “Measure for Measure” is positive, enhancing the comedic quality of the writing.

Murphys Creek Theatre provides an opportunity for budding local talent to shine. The company relies on the community for support and patronage. The quaint Black Bart Playhouse is an ideal venue. The welcoming theatre staff makes it a great place for a cultural outing with family and friends — a good opportunity to turn of the electronic devises and experience live theatre. What better way than through William Shakespeare?

“Measure for Measure” will be performed through July 17 at the Black Bart Playhouse, 580 S. Algiers St. in Murphys. Shows are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. The playhouse offers ample parking along with wine and appetizers during intermission. For more information and tickets, visit murphyscreektheatre.org.

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