A walkabout “Measure for Measure” as Shakespeare might envision it now

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A typical theatergoer encounters the Duke in “Since I Suppose,” the interactive, walkabout version of Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.”


± Through Sept. 21

± Chicago Shakespeare Theater (played out on a walking tour to sites throughout downtown Chicago)

± Tickets: $45-$75 (sold out, but a waiting list has now been established)

± Info: (312) 595-5600; http://www.chicagoshakes.com

For starters, let me list some of the things I did during the course of “Since I Suppose,” the unique, one-person-at-a-time urban “walkabout,” inspired by Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.” Devised by Australia’s One Step at a Time Like This ensemble (which also created the 2011 “en route”), the piece has been commissioned by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Richard Jordan Production, Ltd.

1. I allowed myself to be blindfolded before answering a number of heavily whispered life-or-death questions about love, loyalty and sacrifice.

2. I perused the shelves of a midtown porn shop in search of a video with a title I wouldn’t mind having emblazoned on a t-shirt (not easy, believe me).

3. I entered a dimly lit hotel room and slipped into bed with a man I had never met. (Can’t figure out how this works for male “visitors” without corrupting this crucial bedroom scene element of the plot.)

4. I allowed myself to be blindfolded again, and driven around the city (a severe real-life thunderstorm only added to the danger quotient). And then, for sheer, unadulterated creepiness, I had a very warm “severed head,” wrapped in plastic, dropped in my lap as I sat in the back seat.

And that is only a fraction of what occurred during this 2 1/2-hour “experience” that sets you traipsing through alleys, into a church, through the lobby of City Hall, along the Chicago Pedway, onto a subway platform, into Daley Plaza, across the Wabash Avenue bridge, up to the 31st floor of a chic hotel from where you can look down on an amazing hidden garden, and into empty elevators and fire stairways. (This experience is suitable for up-for-anything adults only, and is the furthest thing from “handicapped accessible.”)

So, Alice slipping down the rabbit hole? Not exactly, though decked out in large headphones, a hand-held, pre-programmed digital device, and (for a time), a thick, black, paste-on mustache, it often felt as if I were engaging in a more salacious version of her voyage on the city’s streets (though no one did so much as a quick double-take).

In fact, “Since I Suppose” is a fascinating (and completely exhausting) interactive interpretation of a work often referred to as one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays.” The problem? How to reconcile a study of decadence, politics, religion, morality, sex, love, sacrifice, injustice and romance without labeling it a tragedy or a comedy. A pitch black romance? Maybe.

The more familiar you are with the original text, the better, though there also are intriguing contemporary complements during several of the audio sections on the multi-track tape — from a prostitute talking about her work, to a man on Death Row explaining how it feels. The video sections feature two crucial characters — the chaste young nun, Isabella (Clair Korobacz), and the reactionary but corrupt judge who is supposed to clean up the city after the all-seeing Duke (the wonderfully enigmatic, vaguely sinister Julian Hester, who is quite the card shark) goes into hiding.

I confess to succumbing to crankiness at various moments in the first hour of the adventure, in large part because one great joy of theater for me is being free of technology, and the combination of the devices, the walking, the listening and the general buzz of city life can be distracting. (If you DO lose your way, human “guides” magically step in to redirect you.) But midway through the whole thing I began to have fun, and the sheer logistical genius of this whole undertaking is beyond impressive. As for the creepy intimacy, it is dead right for the play itself.

Sadly, for the titillated‚ “Since I Suppose” is completely sold out (only 300 people will be able to take the journey). For those signed up to see it, a spoiler alert here: The final destination is the stage of a tattered, long hidden, but still hauntingly beautiful downtown theater, and it just cries out for renovation.

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