Measure for Measure
Director: Henry Godinez
Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Courtyard Theater
Measure for Measure (2022)
by Laura Lodewyck
In Henry Godinez’s Measure for Measure, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s Courtyard Theater was reimagined as a nightclub in 1950s Cuba. The house opened with a stumbling nightclub patron, by the actor doubling as Elbow, dressed only in a briefs and oversized tourist sombrero. The ogling white gaze of the drunken tourist anticipates the smoky nightclub opening number, where the characters of Mistress Overdone’s club move through song to establish an atmosphere of sensual revelry. By the time the Shakespearean dialogue begins, the setting anticipates the tension of the corrupt world, as arrests interrupt the celebration.
Godinez strategically uses race and colorism in the production, in commenting on access to power: “The Duke knows that Escalus is the most qualified to take his place, but he chooses Angelo instead. In our production, he doesn't give her the job as a Black woman; he gives it to Angelo, to a man who's not as dark as she is.” In the generously cut script, Barnadine is highlighted as the play’s objecting revolutionary, and language is featured both in the setting of Cuban music and the reluctant Provost (Robert Schleifer), who explains characters’ fates at the hands of the state in American Sign Language (ASL). The Provost’s need of a translator to communicate the exigency of the situation further amplified The Duke’s distancing of himself from the needs of the people. It also made the production trilingual – with Shakespeare’s English for the dialogue, various styles of Spanish-language music, and ASL.
The final image is one of resistance and revolution, as Isabel realizes with disgust that she will become the possession of the Duke, despite the relatively happy endings of the others. Barnadine rips down and wraps himself in the Cuban flag, as the lights dim and contemporary rap from the San Isidro Movement plays. This harkened on the success of performers such as Cuban-born Yotuel, who received the Latin Grammy for Best Urban song for “Patria y Vida” in 2021. In Godinez’s words: “This choice affects the way we end our story and how we may see the real revolution.”
There was a Projected Spanish Translation mounted on November 15, 2022, that included a post-show discussion with Claudia Genlui Hidalgo, Maria de Los Angeles Torres, and Henry Godinez. L is for Libertad: Exploring Cuba’s San Isidro Movement alongside Measure for Measure. In a discussion, director Godinez spoke of how activism of the MSI movement inspired the production. The event was co-sponsored by University of Illinois Chicago’s Latin American and Latino Studies Program and the Rafael Cintron Ortiz Latino Cultural Center, and Northwestern’s School of Communication and Department of Theatre.
 Chloe Rabinowitz, “Chicago Shakespeare Theater to Present 'L is for Libertad: Exploring Cuba's San Isidro Movement,” BroadwayWorld.com, 10 Nov 2022.