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Measure for Measure

At Eliot House through Saturday and May 9-14

By Anthony Hiss

Mr. Thomas Babe, a senior, is currently making his adieux to the Harvard stage by directing a production of Measure for Measure, and also playing in it under an assumed name. In the latter role he is unobjectionable, if uninspired; in the former, he has been led by his obviously extensive acquaintance with the more prominent modern critics of the play to create an awkward intermission in the middle of Act III, Scene 1. Mr. Babe is not, however, without his own reading of the play: he finds it a crashing bore. Now this is probably a novel interpretation, but it cannot be denied that it is a beautifully compelling one; at any rate, Mr. Babe's production certainly comes very close to establishing his point.

Two of Mr. Babe's actors, Donald Lyons and Andreas Teuber, have refused to attempt to bore. Mr. Lyons' rebellion, happily enough, has extended to a complete repudiation of his part. He is the Duke; not Shakespeare's Duke, to be sure, but a dazzlingly royal admixture of Hapsburg and Abdul Hammid, of Bette Davis and John Finley, with perhaps a hint of Angela Lansbury and Major Strasser. When he is on the stage, he does not dominate so much as devastate the pretensions of everyone else. He is, in fact, infinitely more attractive than Shakespeare's Duke ever can be; it is as though Laughton were playing Peter O'Toole.

Mr. Teuber is a highly competent Deputy: rigidly controlled, beautifully articulate. At times I found him a bit too conscientiously odious; Lord Angelo, I suspect, should not pick his teeth and ears or twitch his mouth quite so often. One must preserve the distinction between heartache and heartburn.

Mr. Babe has been more fortunate in the rest of his cast, which is helplessly inept. Philip Heckscher's pre-adolescent and pre-Raphaelite Claudio cannot conceivably be guilty of the crime for which he stands condemned. Presumably he hopes to play Hamlet some day; meanwhile he might blow his nose--and get into something roomier than the shockingly indecent tights he has been asked to wear. Carol Schectman gives us a plump-cheeked, milkmaid, Putney-girl Isabella and somehow makes a two-dimensional part seem barely one-dimensional. Jacqueline Winer transforms Mistress Overdone into an inaudible New Orleans madam of the steamboat days; the accents of W.D. Hart's Provost are alternately refined and repulsive; Alfred Guzetti is a childish Elbow; Stanford M. Janger an exhausted Lucio. There are also an Escalus and a Barnadine.

* * *

The above may confirm in many an old suspicion that Hiss is constitutionally incapable of liking anything on the Harvard stage. As he, too, now makes his adicux in a last review he would like to seize a final opportunity not only to deny this most ill-informed of calumnies but to express as vigorously as possible his admiration for all of Harvard's drama. If its best is excellent judged by the highest standards, it is certainly no slur to say that its worst is bad by those same standards. Always it is luminous for its energy and its intelligence. And I have always, last night especially, enjoyed myself no end.

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