By William Shakespeare

Directed by John Basil

American Globe Theatre (www.americanglobe.org)

145 West 46 St., (212) 869-9809

Equity approved showcase (through April 14)

Review by David Mackler


Director John Basil begins the American Globe Theatre’s production of The Tempest with a dance performance by the Sprites: Inna Beynishes, Ashley Anne Russ and Rebecca MacDougall (nicely choreographed by Alisa Claire) to indicate the storm. Although Basil’s jettisoned the play’s first scene, the combination of movement, impressive lighting by Mark Hankla (with the wrathful Prospero lit in red), excellent music and very effective sound effects (by Scott O’Brien), assures the audience it is in good hands. This impression is only reinforced when the characters begin to speak.


The usually plodding bit of exposition where Prospero (Richard Fay) explains to Miranda (Uma Incrocci) pretty much who they are and how they got where they are is turned into an interesting story, and the good natured by-play between father and daughter shows they do indeed have a past, in spite of all this being new information to her.


The rest continues in this vein. There’s a wonderful comic aspect to Ariel (Elizabeth Keefe), and it’s completely clear who she and Caliban (Brian Morvant) are, and why they do what they do. (Both are wonderfully physical actors as well.)  Miranda’s goofy attraction to Ferdinand (Christopher Newell) is charming and real, and it’s completely understandable when he gets goofy over her too. There’s some breathtakingly funny comic stuff from Stephano (Todd Courson) and especially Mat Sanders’ Trinculo, both verbally (that Shakespeare’s a really funny guy!) and physically.


It’s not so incidental that the director is the author of Will Power:  How to Act Shakespeare in 21 Days – this company is possibly the best spoken and acted Shakespearean troupe this side of the Atlantic. In fact, it’s all so comprehensible that it’s almost like seeing the play for the first time. This production is a clear, coherent, funny, and touching Tempest. It becomes real because it’s theatrical, and it wouldn’t be nearly as touching if it weren’t so funny. And because there’s humor throughout, there’s no imbalance between romance and comedy and intrigue and revenge.


The text is so clearly delivered and the quality of the acting so high that Sebastian (Robert Ierardi) and Antonio (Rainard Rachele) conspiring at long last makes sense; Alonzo’s (Bob Armstrong) bewilderment is real and character driven; Stanley Harrison’s Gonzalo is funny, charming, befuddled, and altogether superb. And there’s a wonderful moment at the end where Ariel’s tenderness to Prospero gives added depth to his change of heart. It’s great when a director and author and actors are so in tune.


There are also extraordinarily lush costumes (by Jim Parks) (and kudos to the cast that can carry off wearing them, hats included); luminous and mood altering lighting throughout; a set (designed by Kevin Lee Allen) that’s very well-used – a green platform, slightly askew, set on a floor painted blue and surrounded by drapes that were nearly characters in the play themselves. There were also three very large books stage left – representing Propsero’s power, of course, that’s in the text, but also the appeal of the author’s work. You could do worse than be stuck on an isolated island with a copy of The Complete William Shakespeare for companionship.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Sets: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

Copyright 2007 David Mackler

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