PSC presents two very relevant plays

Measure for Measure and An Iliad will be at the Estates Theater

Prague Shakespeare Company is staging an old and a new play on two days at the end of October at the Estates Theater.

Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure will be on Oct. 25 and Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s An Iliad will be on Oct. 26.

Both plays could not be more timely. Prague Shakespeare Company staged their new interpretation of Measure for Measure over the summer at Prague Castle. It is directed by Guy Roberts and features original music from Patrick Neil Doyle, the son of famed composer Patrick Doyle.

Roberts’ modernized take on the play, with one of the main characters as a 1980s bling bedizened ghetto hustler and others as assorted modern petty criminals and prostitutes, may not have been what the audience expected but it put a new perspective on the overlooked play, and showed that its themes still exist in modern times.

The main topic of Measure for Measure is false accusations, and especially powerful men using their authority to silence women who are trying to tell the truth.

“Measure for Measure is without a doubt the most important Shakespeare play today. In many ways this is the first play to directly deal with sexual harassment. Especially now in light of the #metoo movement, the questions the play raises about political and personal corruption, religious and sexual hypocrisy, fair and merciful justice are questions we are asking on a daily basis,” director Guy Roberts said ahead of the premiere at Prague Castle.

Measure for Measure takes a dark view of religious hypocrisy, which also makes it topical. “Seemingly moral authorities use religion to justify the most immoral of behavior and then hide behind the shroud of devout religiosity. The play has the same very dark view of people in power who abuse their position in small and great ways. … It is extraordinary how little has changed and how much Shakespeare’s Vienna is similar to practically every city in the Western world now,” Roberts said.

Going back even further in time, An Iliad takes us to the Trojan War, but also gives another new perspective.

The play Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare is actually a recent work, first staged in 2012, that takes its inspiration from Homer’ Iliad but is also filled with modern references. PSC staged it previously as part of a trilogy on the Trojan War. The play, directed by Roberts and Rebecca Greene Udden had a successful run in Houston, Texas, before coming to Prague. Original music is again by Patrick Neil Doyle.

Roberts says the ideas in An Iliad are still relevant. “The Iliad is the foundational epic of Western civilization — all the basic ingrained beliefs about men and women, the role of the individual to the group, duty to country/tribe vs duty to individual/family, what is just and correct action when faced with injustice and corruption — all of these things are brought wonderfully to life in the Iliad,” he said.

“The fantastic script brings these thrilling questions that still haunt us to a very human and relatable level in an easily digestible evening of theater. The great thing about the evening is audiences will leave with a keen understanding not just of the story of Achilles and Helen of Troy but also hopefully with a renewed hunger to think about and address the timeless questions in their own lives,” he added.

The play is largely a one-man show, with two muses in the background. The highlight is a rendition of a list of almost all the major wars fought since Homers’ time to now. It fits in with Homer’s style of making ling lists of the fighters and ships in his original text.

Roberts in previous stagings gave a riveting performance.

The idea of wars that drag on for years and have no end in sight unfortunately still is as relevant as it was in Homer’s time.

Both plays provide a lot of food for thought.

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