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October 8, 2015
By Tammy Wen, Niles West
“The Tempest” is not just any typical play. In fact, this unforgettable production of magic and ambition takes the audience on an adventure beyond Navy Pier. Adapted by Aaron Posner and Teller, we enter a classical story filled with enchantment, humor, revenge, forgiveness and love.
Prospero (Larry Yando) is a magician, a father and the original duke of Milan. He and his daughter Miranda (Eva Balistrieri) are cast away after being overthrown by Antonio (Lawrence Grimm), Prospero’s brother. Despite the dire circumstances, Gonzola (Barbara Robertson) ends up helping Prospero before they are sent away to their deaths. Much to his appreciation, these magic books will prove themselves useful in twelve years.
Prospero is plotting revenge, and he needs the help of an elemental spirit, who goes by the name of Ariel (Nate Dendy). However, they aren’t the only inhabitants on the island. Caliban (Zach Eisenstat and Manelich Minnieffe), a monstrous two-headed creature, is powerless under Prospero’s magical control. Prospero uses the same powerful magic to make a sea storm, causing a ship to capsize inhabitants from the kingdom, including Antonio. Events start to unfold when Ferdinand (Luigi Sottile), the Prince of Naples, falls in love with the compassionate Miranda. His father, Alonso (John Lister), is torn with grief as Antonio, Gonzola, and Sebastian (Michael Aaron Lindner) try to make sense of their shipwreck and surroundings. Yet no matter how keen on revenge Prospero may be, he is torn between vengeance and his daughter’s happiness. Meanwhile, Caliban is stirring up some trouble with Stephano (Ron E. Rains) and Trinculo (Adam Wesley Brown), drunk musicians in Alonso’s court who are convinced that Caliban can be trusted. In what appears to be a struggle for the decision between dukedom and magic, Prospero discovers that there are some forces in the world more powerful than magic.
The amount of detail and effort that goes into this production is beyond words. It is refreshing to watch something that does not have extravagant CGI effects or computer generated animations. Though the play is traditional, many of the techniques they utilized in the production transcends a modern approach. There is a difference between seeing magic on screen and stage magic live. The incorporation of stage magic into the plot is executed perfectly, as there is not one moment where it did not make sense or feel out of place. These aren’t your simple slight of the hand tricks either. In fact, the complexity of some tricks have gotten the entire theater gasping in confusion.
This is one of the advantages about the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Constructed into a thrust stage, the actors get up close and personal for those seated near the aisles and the front. This isn’t an exaggeration when you have characters running up and down the aisles. There is no longer a wall between the actors and the audience, making it feel less distant and more engaging. One of my favorite aspects about the production is the set. Its multidimensional structure makes it possible for characters to be situated high or low. Simultaneously, it captures a Dust Bowl-esque feel. Many of the audience members will see that the wardrobe and set pays notable tribute to this period. While all the commotion is happening on the ground, exquisite songs and music are performed by Rough Magic, a spirit band. Of course, you can’t have a good story without setting the mood. Rough Magic is settled comfortably at the top of the stage, which consists of four talented members by the names of Juno (Bethany Thomas), Iris (Liz Filios), Jove (Ethan Deppe), and Mars (Jake Saleh). Whenever the mood is solemn or hopeful, Rough Magic’s music is simply breathtaking.
Let’s be honest, Shakespeare isn’t the most interesting form of entertainment. (Cue a horrified gasp from my English teacher.) It’s because of plays like “The Tempest” that brings what Shakespeare envisioned to life. It makes Shakespeare enjoyable. Yes, really! I found myself laughing, chuckling, and amazed by the magic of Prospero’s world. This production truly encompasses what magic is all about, and “The Tempest” is a play that goes out with a bang.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier is currently offering a deal for people under 35. You can get 2 tickets for the price of $20. “The Tempest” will be showing until Nov. 8.
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