By William Shakespeare
Directed by Scott McKinsey
Produced by DreamLogic Theatreworks
At The Rotunda, Evanston
We are such stuff as dreams are made on
Theatre in the promenade – which is how DreamLogic presents The Tempest – is inherently more demanding of its audiences. By very definition: for the audience must move with the action. It cannot stay sedentary, gawking. All the world’s the stage in this setting – or at least the entire room. This asks the audience to be more involved; they have to pay attention to a greater amount of things, and what’s more they’re allowed to look or go anywhere they want. DreamLogic does use this principle well, with small things going on all around the space, not just where attention is focused at the time.
There are two schools of thought as to how Shakespeare is to be done: there are those who think of it as sacred text, and would not have it touched but for (necessary) cutting; and then there are those who see it as a playground and something meant to be reconstructed and reimagined. The Globe Theatre in London certainly is not afraid of improvisation and crowd interaction from on the stage. Indeed, that position almost is more truly Shakespearean – one cannot expect Richard Burbage to have followed exactly the text. DreamLogic sort of straddles the two schools: they stick to the text very accurately, except when they don’t. And all around is the text treated with realism – the actors start and stop, stutter, repeat a word or two in a line. There are embellishments: instead of the fantastic visions Prospero conjures up for the wedding ceremony, Ariel tells the story (and not in blank verse, believe) of Caliban and herself and the witch and Prospero’s arrival on the island. Which is an interesting idea.
Indeed, this production is full of interesting ideas. Some of them good, some of them less so – Ferdinand moving too quickly for Miranda impugns his nobility. The aforementioned scene is interesting and offers a delightful backstory; but it’s boorishly written. Some of the characterizations are questionable: the play moves so quickly (it clocks in without intermission right around two hours – short, for a Tempest, and admittedly necessarily so for the promenade staging) that many of the arcs are stunted. Ariel’s, for instance: she starts off fawning on Prospero and by the end of the play is furious with him, yet the reasons for that are not emphasized enough. They seemed to have simply missed the mark with Trinculo’s character, who is played as not enough of a clown to land the comic lines he’s given. Prospero also seems to lack some definition, and races past certain moments without sufficient emotional depth. For instance, when Ariel tells Prospero that, were he human, he would pity the traitors trapped in Prospero’s spell, it should be a huge moment for Prospero: a spirit who is not even human is able to show more humanity than the wizard himself. Instead it’s sort of glossed over.
As I said, this production is full of ideas. It’s trying to do something and so should be recognized for the attempt, even if it sometimes falls short. This would be a great show to check out as a student.
Reviewed on 10.21.11
For full show information, visit TheatreInChicago.
At The Rotunda, 1603 Orrington Ave., Evanston, IL; for tickets visit http://dreamlogictheatreworks.blogspot.com/; prices $15-$30; Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm; through Nov. 19.