By Lucy Komisar
Take a luckless cowboy, his novitiate sister, a (mostly) upstanding sheriff, a saloon dancer with a sideline, a governor who demands sex for favors and a drunken priest who admires Nietzsche.
You wouldn‘t think they would inhabit Shakespeare‘s “Measure for Measure.” Well, they don‘t, they are the characters of “Desperate Measures,” a supremely clever parody that moves the Bard‘s story from 17th-century Vienna to the American West in the 1800s.
While continuing of course the rhyming couplets, where brusque rhymes with dusk. The show, book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg, music by David Friedman, is a hoot.
Jonathan Blodget (Conor Ryan), aka Johnny Blood, has shot a guy in a conflict over Bella Rose (the very funny Lauren Molina), a dance-hall stripper. He got in a bar fight with another guy, both pulled guns, Johnny‘s bullet landed, he got put in prison.
The hyper-German Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber (a perfectly slimy Nick Wyman), with orders from Washington to keep law and order, orders a hanging. Johnny‘s sister, Susanna (Sarah Parnicky, with a fine soprano), a novitiate, visits the governor to plead for his life.
The governor offers a deal. He will save her brother if she sleeps with him. Is this timely, or not! Or, plus §a change…..!
But the clever sheriff (Peter Saide) works out a deal where Bella, who loves Johnny, will switch garb and places with his sister in the dark of night.
He tells her, “You must sleep with the governor.” She declares, “Again!” The musical cast projects what will happen In the Dark.
Things get complicated when the governor falls in love with the sexy Bella and won‘t free Johnny till she marries him. So, another ruse is required.
There‘s also a drunken Catholic priest (Gary Marachek), who has written a letter to Nietsche about the matter.
But that‘s just the outline. The heart of the play are the funny songs, some in country rock, and hokey gags performed by an excellent cast with good voices and fine comic timing.
Director and choreographer Bill Castellino is the excellent helmsman of a cast whose dancing and singing match anything on Broadway.
James Morgan’s set is very good movies western, with wooden walls and bales of hay.
You will toast the performance with a very wide grin.
“Desperate Measures.” Book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg; music by David Friedman. Directed and choreographed by Bill Castellino. New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, New York City. 212-239-6200 Opened June 13, 2018. 2:20 hours.