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Measure For Pleasure an over-the-top sex romp
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Measure For Pleasure an over-the-top sex romp

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Measure for Pleasure
ArtsWest
Through November 14


If there are characters named Sir Lustforth, Lady Vanity and Molly Tawdry, what kind of play might this be? A sex romp. That's what's going on this month at ArtsWest as they present Measure for Pleasure by David Grimm. This is not your father's sex romp, however, since Molly Tawdry is a cross-dressing, homosexual hooker. The action takes place, as it says in the program, in 1751, and so does the language, but the sentiment is purely 2000s. In fact, the characters occasionally slide all the way from 1751 to 2009.

Sir Peter Lustforth (Paul Custodio) doesn't think he loves his wife, Lady Vanity Lustforth (Heather Hawkins), anymore and thinks he should divorce her and marry Hermione Goode (Colleen Robertson), a woman some million years his junior. Captain Dick Dashwood (Jared Michael Brown) is also enamored with Hermione, and even though he's a cad and a serial non-monogamist, Hermione seems to be enamored with him back. The Lustforth family has a servant, Will Blunt (Zach Adair), who finds himself in love with Molly Tawdry (Alex Garnett), the cross-dressing hooker, but Molly refuses to believe that it's a real love. Blunt determines to show him/her that he really does love her/him.

There's also an orgy and some leather and a riding crop and some over-the-top costuming by Sarah Lee Day, who seems to think that there are never enough feather boas. The extravagant set by Dan Schuy has yards and yards and yards and yards of rich-looking white fabric, topped with adorable cherubs and hung between columns. These curtains ingeniously open and close on their own, revealing or hiding characters as needed. There is some great period music chosen for scene changes by sound designer Andrew Chin. Christopher Zinovitch directs the non-speaking servants and chambermaid to create a lot of fun incidental business and add to the bawdy atmosphere.

The antics and plans of the servant Blunt take a large chunk of the focus, as Blunt tries to show his love for Molly by dressing up like a fop and challenging Molly's crush, Dick Dashwood, to a duel. Adair handles the role very well, though he loses focus at times. However, when the emotional climax (not that climax!) occurs, he brings a likable sadness into the role.

The heart of the play is Lady Lustforth, who begins the play with a blind enthusiasm that indicates she believes everything she says about herself, then has a wonderful moment of clarity and truth about who she is and how she really feels. Hawkins gives her all with an affecting manner, but also shows why she stays with and puts up with the kind of husband that she has.

The cast is solid and includes a small but smart part for Beth A. Cooper, Dame Stickle, whose moral compass gets turned around just a bit. Garnett as Molly has a real sadness and need about her/him that enhances the role and the plot. One could wish the accents didn't drift quite so much when it doesn't seem like they're supposed to. The happy ending, with the characters paired up, is a little pat, but after all, it's a grown-up fairy tale. Do take the "adults" warning seriously.

For more information, go to www.artswest.org or call 206-938-0339.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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