By William Shakespeare
Directed by Tina Landau
At Steppenwolf Theatre
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, rounded with a little sleep”
“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” – Quotes from The Tempest
Ambitious Steppenwolf production of The Tempest has its moments.
Steppenwolf Theatre, under Tina Landau’s wildly ambitious direction, has launched The Bard’s final work, The Tempest, in an uneven production that features gender bending interracial casting with gymnastic elements, excruciating sound effects peopled with a rich assortment of Steppenwolf ensemble members some with expert Shakespearean talents and some with no clue to the Folio Method. That made for a radically strange production that included a screeching loud opening ship wreck scene, some terrific comic turns from K. Todd Freeman (Caliban), Yasen Peyankov (Stephano), and Tim Hopper (Trinculo).
Prospero (a fabulous performance from Frank Galati) is exiled to an enchanted island where he harnesses the powers of magic and masters the spirits that dwell there. With the help of his servant Ariel (Jon Michael Hill), Prospero desires revenge by conjuring a mighty storm designed to trap his enemies on the island. This is a re-imagined production that is long on spectacle with a few outstanding performances, especially from Frank Galati, Stephan Louis Grush (Ferdinand), Craig Spidle (Alonso), and K. Todd Freeman.
There were scenes that were difficult to understand mainly due to the lack of elocution from several performers. Alana Arenas’ Miranda never got any chemistry going with Grush’s Ferdinand and Lois Smith seemed uncomfortable playing Gonzalo. The speeches from Frank Galati and the comic work from Hopper and Peyankov highlighted the play. The Tempest moved from terrific spectacle and funny moments to slowly paced and mumbled speech. The show needed more experienced Shakespearian actors and smaller scale staging. Galati’s performance alone makes this Tempest worth seeing.
At Steppenwolf theatre, 1650 N. Halsted Street, Chicago, IL, call 312-335-1650, www.steppenwolf.org, Tickets $20 – $70, Tuesdays thru Sundays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays & Sunday matinees at 3 pm, Wednesdays matinees at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission.