Hosting another bold production of the Bard, The Porters of Hellsgate Theatre Company is currently staging Shakespeare's problematic comedy, otherwise known as one of his 'broken' dramas, Measure for Measure. The literal cautionary tale begins with two young lovers prosecuted for their acts of love and resulting child out of wedlock, which presents itself as a wicked moral dilemma for Angelo (Justin Michael Terry), left to mind the town in the Duke's absence. But instead of traveling, Duke Vincentio (played with shrewdness and perfect diction by director Thomas Bigley) is parading as a pious Friar Lodowick to see if Angelo is corrupted by his new found power. When the chaste and virtuous sister of the accused fornicator Claudio (Matt Calloway), Isabella, meets Angelo to plea for her brother's life, he strikes an unfair bargain, bartering her pledge of innocence for her brother's. Claudio is scheduled to be executed if Isabella doesn't abide, but she dies inside knowing she'd break her vow. Angelo is not blind to the irony of calling lustful acts criminal while seeking to steal the virginity of devoted damsel under duress. How will the watchful Duke decide to confront Angelo?
The Porters' energetic cast thrived against minimalist staging in The Whitmore's intimate black box theater, an all-purpose interchangeable desk in one corner and a chilly jail cell in the other. With only over a dozen actors and no background players, each had the opportunity to take a focused moment to earn a laugh or really evoke pain. Jennifer Bronstein stole the show as sorrowful and tortured Isabella, alluring despite her agony. The important contrast of comic relief came from duplicitous lord Lucio, played with fun and flair by Gus Krieger, obnoxious instigator Elbow who was an amusing exaggeration by Sean Faye, and Jamey Hecht's hilarious Pompey, whose accent is more 1970's Brooklyn than 1890's Vienna with fantastically ridiculous results.
The Porters of Hellsgate Theatre Company's production was dynamic and fulfilling, while the charming Whitmore Theatre on the edge of the NoHo Arts District seemed like an ideal home for their efforts. Don't miss either one's next projects.
The Whitemore Theatre is located at 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. For tickets call 818-325-2055. Check out The Porters at PortersofHellsgate.com.