Measure for Pleasure at Woolly Mammoth

Of all the marketing I've seen this season, it must be said the ads for Measure for Pleasure are among the most distinctively straightforward out there. What does the poster promise that an evening at Woolly Mammoth will provide? BOOBS. And boobs in period dress, no less! This is gloriously true, but there's so much more to be had in Howard Shalwitz's wonderful production of David Grimm's version of an unexpurgated Restoration comedy.

It's actually quite difficult to put a label on this play- it poses as Restoration, but it was written in the twenty-first century and is actually set a good hundred years AFTER Charles II started cavorting in St. James's Park. The play takes an utterly contemporary story and masks it in the guise of Long Ago and Far Away, but we are none of us fooled. We know these people. We know this STORY, and that's only ever a good thing. The love stories that anchor the plot follow a basic romantic outline of highs, lows, and pitfalls before the Happily Ever After is reached, even if the trappings are a little unusual.

What jumps out to make these couplings stand out from the ordinary? Before I speak/type a WORD about the plot or characters, let me praise the name of Helen Q. Huang, costume designer for the production. Her designs are PHENOMENAL. It's period dress seen through a lens of marzipan candy and contemporary chic. I LOVED the look she brought to the production THIS MUCH. If you want a sample, go to the Woolly website here and check out the gallery.

The cast of characters fall into three romantic pairings and the standard issue desiccated guardian of the Ingenue. I shall take a moment here to give a shout out to the fabulous Kimberly Scharf as said Guardian: the dour Dame Stickle. She is never less than hilarious when she's onstage, and in a production that's filled with laughter, those that she provides are among the best.

Actually, it's quite a night for the ladies in the cast. Jennifer Mendenhall is magnificent as the aging Lady Vanity Lustforth, desperate for the waning attentions of her loutish husband, Sir Peter (Doug Brown). Her performance left me reeling, sometimes from laughter, but also from a particularly heartbreaking scene with Andrew Honeycutt's Molly.

Honeycutt's crossdressing (and aptly named) Molly was another high point for me, as was his entire storyline. Honeycutt plays a wonderful, world-weary outrageousness and reveals a surprisingly tender and fragile heart in a particularly touching loveplot with Joel Reuben Ganz's (also very, very good) Will Blunt. Need I issue a SPOILERALERT! to say that, of all the happy endings each couple will inevitably reach by the finale, theirs was the one that made me want to clap my hands with delight? (Don't laugh, it's been known to happen.)

Kimberly Gilbert, last seen being AMAZING in The K of D, is fabulous as ever as our ingenue, Hermione Goode. I promise you here and now: you will NOT be able to keep from laughing as SOON as she walks onstage. She is SUCH a master of physical comedy and has perfected a series of delightful mannerisms that kept me giggling all night.

I should be very clear on this: the boobs do not lie. Woolly's warning on the website reads:

NOTE: Contains lewd language and sublimely sexual situations.
(you might be turned off…or turned on.)

This is a bawdy, outrageous show. You MUST be prepared and if dirty jokes and innuendo and sight jokes with sex toys aren't your thing, you will probably want to look elsewhere for an evening's entertainment.

But if you ARE ready for a night spent snickering with the sophistication of an adolescent male at all the fun that can be had with a notorious rake named Captain Dick Dashwood as one of your leading men, then you might well be up for Measure. If you want to catch some brilliant work by some of DC's finest actresses, then you should LEAP at the chance to see Measure. As directed by Woolly's own Howard Shalwitz, it is indeed a pleasure and not to be missed.

I give it an OH MY GOD GO NOWWWWWWWWW rating.


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