We enter the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on a crisp fall evening through the doors at Navy Pier. The doors to the theater are open. A crowd mills about the lobby and bit by bit makes their way into the theater. The house lights are still on and across the way we see a man in a sombrero walking towards the stage. He seems to us innocuous enough, but as he slowly comes into view, we realize the sombrero is the biggest piece of clothing he has on! No shirt or pants, but luckily for us still with socks and briefs on, he makes his way to the stage set with cabaret tables.
Next, a woman in a bright red sequined dress flounces out on the stage snapping and waving her accompanying fan. She shouts up the audience members in the balcony and the ones on the main floor in front of her and blows kisses of welcome.
The rest of the club patrons join the others on stage, and we’re treated to a slice of their cabaret act with singing, dancing, and overall fun.
Chicago Shakespeare Captures the Duality of Cuba
However, the bright and fun atmosphere of Cabaret La Trucha soon turns somber as images of war and soldiers flash on the back wall behind the stage. Officers invade the club dressed in army green uniforms and heavy boots. They arrest the performers. Under a new ruler in Havana, this club is nothing more than a den of sinners and must be stopped. Using the original Shakespearean text, this production of Measure for Measure places us in 1950s Cuba where a military presence tries to stamp out any person or place that threatens their morally straight rule.
A simple thrust stage houses a minimal set. As we’re brought into this new dictator’s office, a large and imposing desk and chair are rolled to the middle. Angelo (Adam Poss) straightens his name plate and religious statue sitting atop the desk just so. He stands and sits with military precision. A rosary hangs around his neck as he embodies the perfect sanctimonious soldier.
Cast into this new regime with Angelo acting as deputy duke, we see how the lively culture of Cuba gets squashed under a dictator-like presence.
Serious Religious Piety with Levity
Though Measure for Measure deals with these large conflicts - religious tyrants squashing lives and abusing power trying to coerce people to bend to their will - our actors find the jokes in Shakespeare’s words and have us chuckling in between the drama.
As the unwavering Angelo finds himself quite…taken with the novice nun Isabel played by Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, he covers his crotch with his hat as he prays to the heavens above asking what has overcome him.
Lucio (Gregory Linington) adds a rogue-ish air when he comes on stage. He flirts with Madame Overdone and delivers his lines with ease. He teases the Duke (Kevin Gudahl), who is disguised as a friar, and boasts he knows the Duke so well, while the rest of us chuckle with dramatic irony.
We feel Isabel’s struggle with the decision to sleep with Angelo or not to save her brother. But when she needs to plead her case, she unleashes her religious orations and delivers them with the ferocity of a preacher on Sunday to a full congregation.
And as Constable Elbow (Joe Foust) tries to keep the slick and smooth talking Pompey (Elizabeth Ledo) in check, the two add a bit of comic relief from the problems around them.
For those who are Shakespeare fans but aren’t in the mood for one of his three hour dramas or history plays, this 100-minute Measure for Measure might be the one for you. It would also be a good fit for those who like classics with a modern tie in them.
Debo Balogun- Barnardine
Kidany Camilo- Froth
Andrés Enriquez- Claudio
Alejandra Escalante- Mariana
Joe Foust- Elbow
Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel- Isabella
Kevin Gudahl- Duke
Elizabeth Ledo- Pompey
Gregory Linington- Lucio
Sándor Menéndez- Ensemble
Felicia Oduh- Juliet
Adam Poss- Angelo
Ana Santos- Mistress Overdone
Robert Schleifer- Provost
Lanise Antoine Shelley- Escalus
Ajax Dontavius- Understudy
Dani Goldberg- Understudy
Jeff Parker- Understudy
Laila Rodriques- Understudy
by William Shakespeare
Henry Godinez Director
Rasean Davonté Johnson Scenic & Projections/Video Designer
Raquel Adorno Costume Designer
Maria-Cristina Fuste Lighting Designer
André Pluess Sound Designer
Richard Jarvie Wig & Make-up Designer
Orbert Davis Music Director/Arrangements/Composition
Jorge Amado Molina Co-Arrangements & Composition
Melissa Blanco Movement Designer
Lia Mortensen Verse Coach
Sarah Scanlon Intimacy Director
Maya Prentiss Fight Choreographer
Maria de Los Angeles Torres Dramaturg
Hamid Dehghani Assistant Director
Bob Mason Casting Director
Jinni Pike Production Stage Manager
Shannon Golden Assistant Stage Manager
Thru November 27, 2022
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 E Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
Special Event: "L is for Libertad: Exploring Cuba’s San Isidrio Movement alongside Measure for Measure,": a post-show panel conversation following the projected Spanish translation performance on Tuesday, November 15, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.
About the Author: Alexis Bugajski
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski