Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker
David Grimm seems to like showing off how much he knows of famous authors' plays by cannibalizing them and regurgitating bits into his own modernized versions. Although he devises Measure for Pleasure as a contemporary Restoration romp, his first scene recreates the sexually licentious suburban scenes of Shakespeare's play of nearly the same name, where moral and civil laws are violated with impunity. (One of the bawds poses as a judge toward the end in another borrowing.)
With addresses and asides to the audience and descriptive character names, Restoration-type sexual intrigue begins with aristocrats Peter Lustforth (hot-'n-bothered Eric Hissom) making a deal with Captain Dick Dashwood (Thomas Piper, quickly adapting to various macho types) to assume a disguise that will get Hermione Goode (pretty, perceptive Shannon Noecker) into Sir Peter's clutches. Only a music instructor like Fidelio (Dashwood's Italianate disguise—as in Shakespeare's Shrew plot) could get past Hermione's puritanical aunt-guardian, Dame Stickle. (Gabra Zackman simulates a one-woman prison, dressed in gray-black stripes, high white collar, nunlike head covering. She's sure to get a Malviolio-type come-uppance.) Husband Peter's neglect drives Lady Vanity Lustforth (long-faced but hearty Sheila Stasack) to drink, but when he threatens divorce, she soberly adopts a sex-getting disguise. Meanwhile, Dashwood and Hermione fall for each other. That doesn't stop him from an interlude with Molly Tawdry (ingeniously disguised Andy Phelan) that spills the aristocrats' hi-jinks into the servants' world of Will Blunt (likeable Aaron Galligan-Stierle, easily handling narration with various types of nuttiness and nooky). He and Molly will eventually allow liberal sex among partners as well as true love (such as it can be in a such a smutty context) to flourish in their gay coupling. In one of Grimm's allusions to Oscar Wilde's most famous play, a "homo est machina" reveals Molly's parentage. It's the final measure of happiness being brought to four couples (Stickle's love—aptly named Puke—remains in the wings, as it were, never to be seen.) Blunt gives the Epilogue, and it comes not a moment too soon! Despite the attractive acting and spirited directing, this whole play is just too much of a bad thing!
Costumes by Marcella Beckwith outshine the play in quality. Furniture figures prominently in period settings by Nayna Ramey. Micheal Foster supplies lights as in 17th and l8th century English paintings, and Julie Stemmier's sound design follows suit. Sara Bubenik is Production Stage Manager of this Stage III (intended-to-be edgy play series) FST offering, presented by Richard Hopkins, Artistic Director. Two hours, 15 minutes showtime left fewer people in the audience after Intermission.