Measure For Pleasure
Friday night I saw Measure For Pleasure, the new David Grimm play making its world premiere at The Public Theatre. The press materials intrigued me: "Restoration comedy meets modern sex farce in this play, exploring the elusive nature of happiness and featuring mistaken identities, duels and double-dealings, gay marriage, and the obligatory sex cave."
I called my friend Mike and read that bit to him. "So you wanna go?"
"Sex cave? What's the setting? Steamworks?"
"Actually, it says here that the setting is England, 1751. Wanna go?"
"1751? Um, I don't know."
"There's a trannie hooker in it."
Said trannie hooker is played by dreamy (those eyes!) Tony nominee Euan Morton, whom I thought was fantastic as Boy George in Taboo. (Yes, I was one of the few that saw Taboo.) Also in the cast is Wayne Knight, best known as the mailman on Seinfeld. I should have mentioned this to Mike, because the first time Knight took the stage, Mike blurted out, "Newman!" (Cut to Joe, shrinking in his seat.) The rest of the cast was unfamiliar to me except for Susan Blommaert, who occasionally appears on Law & Order as Judge Steinman. Although by coincidence, just last night I recognized cast member Saxon Palmer playing a drug dealer on...Law & Order.
The play was funny and clever, although you really have to keep your ears open to catch all the witty (and really dirty) double entendres. Old ladies seated behind me: "It's so bawdy! Didja know it was gonna be so bawdy? It's not obscene, ya know...but it's definitely, um...bawdy!" (I don't know how to spell the word "bawdy" with a horrific Queens accent, so just repeat it outloud to yourself until you reach hilarity.) The plot treads on the familiar themes of love forbidden, love denied, love renewed, however with moments such as the one in which Wayne Knight is chasing someone across the stage while wearing a giant strap-on golden dildo, I was never bored.
I left the show as a huge new fan of Tony nominee Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays the lead character in love with Morton's trannie hooker. The second act opened with a frustratingly brief bit of singing by Morton, which I suspect may have been inserted to highlight his impending CD release, New Clear, which he'll be showcasing at Joe's Pub on March 20th and April 3rd.
Measure For Pleasure officially opens tonight, March 8th.
UPDATE: New York Times review here. AP review here.