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A CurtainUp Review
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this season, the company has gained a reputation for its radical revisionist stagings of the classics and contemporary texts. And though Herkovits has his heart in the right place, his latest presentation seems more like a spritely revision of Peter Pan than the Bard's valedictorian 1611 play.
The Tempest is often referred to as Shakespeare's artistic autobiography. Written when he was forty-seven, it's a brilliant blend of a revenge play with a political utopian vision that engages themes of crime, guilt, repentance and, ultimately, redemption.
In spite of its potential theatricality, the Target Margin production doesn't fully dilate its themes or flesh out all its characters. Carol Bailey's Renaissance-styled court costumes, featuring balletic skirts and ragtag outfits, are just too fussy and distract from the action. Moreover, one never gets the feeling that danger is afoot on this enchanted island. The usurpers Antonio (James Tigger! Ferguson), Sebastian (Purva Bedi), Alonso (Mia Katigbak) and their posse aren't convincing as they scheme against Prospero. If any of them cast the evil eye on the magus, I missed it.
That said, there's no one quite like Prospero in Shakespeare's canon. But it is an extremely hard part for any actor to undertake. How does one convey this character who is more than a poet yet less than God? Unfortunately, Steven Rattazzi, as the magus, doesn't have the necessary gravitas for the tyrannical role and his voice and delivery are too congenial and avuncular for the dispossessed Duke.
By far the best work here comes from Mary Neufeld, as Caliban. She takes the role and turns it into a multi-faceted portrait of a creature (half-human, half-beast) who is ultimately unfathomable. Neufeld also proves that a woman can take on this unsettling role, and illuminate it. Caliban has some of the most eloquent passages in the play ("Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,/ Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not."), and Neufeld has the Shakespearean chops to deliver them with brio. Two other actors deserve mention: the attractive Clare Barron who portrays Miranda with a fine delicacy; also playing opposite her, the good-looking Hubert Point-Du-Jour.
Shakespeare enthusiasts may well recall some notable New York productions. In summer 1995, at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, George C. Wolfe gave audiences a blazing Tempest with Patrick Stewart as Prospero. In August 2009, at Classic Stage Company, Dianne Wiest directed Mandy Patinkin as the Magus and that following winter at BAM, Sam Mendes and The Bridge Project gave us a stark transatlantic production starring Stephen Dillane. Take it, or leave it, this play is a perennial on the New York boards.
As for current mountings, JulieTaymor's new film adaptation, in which Helen Mirren plays Prospera would probably be a more satisfying choice than the one by Herskovits. At least in Taymor's version, you get to see Shakespeare's revels retooled into something striking and fresh. On the other hand, the Target Margin product is live theater.