Academic journal article Shakespeare Bulletin

Tempest Tossed

Academic journal article Shakespeare Bulletin

Tempest Tossed

Article excerpt

Tempest Tossed

A Continuum Company production presented by Classic Stage Company, New York, New York, July 10-July 20, 2008. Edited and Adapted by Deborah Hecht. Directed by Jim Calder. Lighting and Set by Greg Mitchell. Costumes by Arnulfo Maldonado. Music by Nicholas DiMichele and Daniel Larlham. Music performed by Nicholas DiMichele and Erika Helen Smith. With Nadia Bowers (Miranda, Trinculo, Alonso, Arid), Andre Holland (Prospero, Antonio, Stephano), and Shane McRae (Ferdinand, Caliban, Sebastian).

The Tempest

Presented by the Classic Stage Company, New York, New York. September 3-October 19, 2008. Directed by Brian Kulick. Scenic design by Jian Jung; Costumes by Oana Botez-Ban. Lighting by Brian H Scott. Original music and sound design by Christian Frederickson. With Craig Baldwin (Sebastian), Yusef Bulos (Gonzalo), Angel Desai (Ariel), Karl Kenzler (Antonio), Nana Mensah (Female Sprite), Nyambi Nyamhi (Caliban), Bhavesh Patel (Boatswain, Adrian, Male Sprite), Mandy Patinkin (Prospero), Michael Potts (Alonso), Steve Rattazzi (Stefano), Stark Sands (Ferdinand),Tony Torn (Trinculo), and Elisabeth Waterston (Miranda).

The end of 2008 produced a "perfect storm" in Manhattan to appreciate Shakespeare's late romance The Tempest. Not only did the Classic Stage Company present Mandy Patinkin as Prospero in for their 2008-09 opening production, but earlier that summer CSC hosted the Continuum Company in an adaptation for three actors, Tempest Tossed.

From Mandy Patinkin's woolly appearance at the Tony Awards in June, where he explained to reporters that his beard was in preparation for Prospero, I had anticipated a "wild man" interpretation of the role. But when I saw him on stage in September his hair and beard were trimmed, and all the wildness was in his resonant vocal instrument. Patinkin's opening scenes reminded me that Prospero is the least vulnerable of Shakespearean heroes: since he has full control of his environment and the other characters, he has no external impetus to change. This power is ironically why this Shakespearean role may be less interesting for an actor than other Shakespearean protagonists. My first Prospero was Derek Jacobi at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984. Jacobi's Prospero was majestic and commanding, but the least human, least physical performance of the roles he played that season. The RSC is the only place I have seen the wedding masque fully staged, with a dozen spirits at Prospero's command--and, not coincidentally, the fully realized presentation of the magical elements of the play made that production the least magical Tempest of my experience.

By comparison, Continuum Company's Tempest Tossed, performed at the Classic Stage Company in the summer before the CSC's own production opened, was the least elaborate staging of The Tempest that I have seen, and possibly the most emotional; the production pared away external elements to focus on the sorrows and joys of the characters. Performed by three actors with minimal props, this adaptation was developed during a three-week workshop in Florence in June 2007. The collaborators envisioned the play through the perspective of a commedia dell' arte traveling troupe. After performances at NYU's La Pietra, it was reprised in New York at the Angel Orensanz Center in October 2007, before its run at CSC.

Since the most developed performances by actors Nadia Bowers, Andre Holland, and Shane McRae were those of (respectively) Miranda, Prospero, and Ferdinand, this production had the effect for me of concentrating on their central drama, relegating the other characters and subplots to devices, in service of Prospero's healing through the love match of his daughter and his enemy's son. The commedia dell' arte approach emphasized the fairy-tale nature of this play, focusing on the archetypal loving fathers and young lovers. The more negative aspects of the play--Prospero's tyranny, the murderous scheming of Sebastian and Antonio, the pathos of Caliban and Ariel--framed the love story without disturbing the happy ending. …

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