Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents two 100-minute productions on its Chicago ShakesSTREAM platform through May 16: Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure. The music of the meter might be more appreciated in this aural format, since it’s now the only element in what was written to be a visual presentation.
The romantic dramedy Twelfth Night is a fully audio production with original, interstitial songs by Joriah Kwamé, perhaps best listened to on SoundCloud, during a walk by the lake (headphone use is recommended by the producers). Twins Viola and Sebastian are separated when shipwrecked on Illyria, and each finds trouble as they search for each other as well as find new loves. The performances, directed by Barbara Gaines, are whimsical and quite intimate as delivered directly into the “porches of my ears.”
The “video-enhanced” Measure for Measure is like an iambic pentameter PowerPoint, which director Henry Godinez sets in pre-Castro Cuba. The still images projected during the dialogue feature Havana vistas and iconic classic cars. Shakespeare’s contemporaries, the Puritans, eschewed the immorality of theater, and the playwright seems to use this play to satirize their purported piety by inspecting corruption, repentance and justice via the Duke in Vienna.
Hearing familiar performers deliver the classics brings a sense of normalcy to the end of a turbulent year, but the traditionally opulent, innovative production designs and costumes are missed. (Happy to avoid the tainted spit of enunciation, however). Perhaps these offerings will entice and capture new audiences who love podcasts like Serial, Radiolab, Wind of Change, SmartLess, currently controversial (meaning imperative) The 1619 Project, and other introspective dissections.
One cast performs both Shakespeare plays, including Yao Dogbe, Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, Kevin Gudahl, Timothy Edward Kane, James Vincent Meredith, Daniel José Molina, Monica Orozco, Lakeisha Renee, Paul Oakley Stovall and Larry Yando. A $25 digital ticket provides access to one single viewing of each production during the run to be watched on a computer or tablet, phone or smart TV. If music be the food of love, press play.