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Polonsky Shakespeare Center (#110 of 2)

Theater Review: Measure for Measure at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center

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Theater Review: Measure for Measure at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center

Theatre for a New Audience

Theater Review: Measure for Measure at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center

As the crowd waited in the lobby of the Polonsky Shakespeare Center for the curtain to rise on Simon Godwin’s production of Measure for Measure, a voice on the loudspeaker said that the bordello was now open. This isn’t the way Shakespeare productions typically begin, even in Brooklyn. Theatre for a New Audience built a passage from the lobby to the theater, with simulated acts of sadomasochism in the occasional opening on either side, separated by a hallway lined with rows of sex toys on small shelves, more boutique retail than museum. Guests were greeted at the entrance by a bored woman with a thick Slavic accent. “Nice to see you again,” she muttered to my wife.

Review: The Killer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center

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Review: The Killer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center
Review: The Killer at Polonsky Shakespeare Center

“What can you do?” The lesson of Eugène Ionesco’s play The Killer is summed up in its final words, spoken to a faceless, nameless murderer who offers no explanation for his deeds. This assertion of impotence at the conclusion of the play, newly translated by Michael Feingold and given a stunningly crisp production by director Darko Tresnjak, can feel tragically unsatisfying. But the play speaks directly to that gap between what we expect and what we receive out of life, and it finds in that distance a powerful lesson. As a crowning member of the mid-century French phenomenon dubbed (by a Brit) the “theatre of the absurd,” Ionesco once strove to teach us that expecting our plays to offer “meanings” that give “comfort” to our messed-up lives only distracts us from what life—and theater—really is, a never-ending confrontation with our mortality.