Theater Review: ‘Desperate Measures’ at New World Stages

By Jonathan Spira on 6 August 2018
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Would you have slept with another guy, or perhaps shot a man and watched him die, or even dressed yourself up like a nun? While it sounds like it was lots of fun – and it was – we just outlined (and paraphrased) the basic premise of the plot of “Desperate Measures,” a musical loosely based on William Shakespeare’s decidedly non-musical play “Measure for Measure.”

The story – recited mostly in couplets – takes place in the pre-state territory of Arizona some time in the mid to late 19th century. Johnny Blood (Conor Ryan) plays a young cowboy who has been sentenced to hang for killing a man who was interested in his girl, Bella Rose (played brilliantly by the immensely talented Lauren Molina of “The Skivvies” fame), ostensibly in self-defense. The good-hearted sheriff (Peter Saide) enlists the aid of Johnny’s estranged sister, Susanne (Sarah Parnicky), who is a novitiate nun weeks away from taking her final vows, asking her to intercede with Governor Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber (Nick Wyman) on Johnny’s behalf.

The governor agrees, on one condition, namely that Susanne sleep with him. Hilarity ensures as Bella, in what is known as a “bed trick” in literature, is enlisted to substitute for Susanne once the lights are dim, thereby ensuring Susanne’s virtue remains intact.

“Measure for Measure,” one of Shakespeare’s darker comedies, is set in Vienna, where Claudio faces the death penalty for “getting Madam Julietta with child.” A friend asks Claudio’s sister, a novitiate nun, to intervene, and it’s here that we see the tenuous connection to the Bard’s work.

If you can make it through the somewhat uneven first act, you’ll be rewarded with a much more lively and sure-footed second act and may even leave the theater, as we did, singing the final number, “It’s a Beautiful Day (for a Lifelong Commitment).”

THE DETAILS

Desperate Measures
New World Stages
340 W 50th Street
New York, N.Y. 10019
Runtime: 2 hours
www.desperatemeasuresmusical.com

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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