Highly Recommended **** There is magic on our lakefront! Even people who are not fond of attending Shakespeare productions, will find themselves in awe of the current production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier of “The Tempest”. This particular adaptation is by Aaron Posner and Teller ( of the famed comic duo Penn and Teller), who also directed this wondrous work of art. While, most of us have never heard Teller speak (he is the silent one), in this production, he speaks with his heart and soul and the magic contained within. The only reason that this show does not have the fifth star is that the play itself is not a “fan favorite”, but I must say, this version is by far one that MUST be seen!
The story is about sorcerer Prospero (Larry Yando who is sheer perfection in this role and has been trained to do some masterful magic as well as his strongest talent- bringing characters to life) and his revenge against his enemies. He has conjured up a storm, forcing them to take refuge on a magical island, where he can control them and their passengers. None of the passengers are happy with their lot, including his brother, Antonio (Lawrence Grimm), who has claimed the title of Duke, that is rightfully that of Prospero. Young Ferdinand (deftly handled by Luigi Sottile), the Prince of Naples, a passenger of the ship, meets Miranda (stunningly played by Eva Louise Balistrieri), Prospero’s daughter and they fall hopelessly in love.
There are some amazing characters in this production with some very magical moments. Of course Ariel, who is Prospero’s servant/spirit played by magician Nate Dendy, who is in fact a real magician, as well as a talented actor, and it shows. Other cast members Zach Eisenstat and Manelich Minniefee as Caliban, the adopted slave of Prospero. These two are as one and do some pretty amazing movements as they do what they are told to do. The comic relief comes from Ron E. Rains as Stephano and Adam Wesley Brown as Trinculo. People in the first row, near the stage, be prepared to have these actors engage you during their scenes. Have fun- They do! Some of the others in this cast are CST regulars, Michael Aaron Lindner, John Lister and the always reliable Barbara Robertson.
The magical moments in this show are in many forms. The actual magic that has been designed and that we watch right before our very eyes, people appearing from nowhere, Miranda being levitated by her father (Yando is truly a magician), cards flying from place to place and many other magical moments. We are also witness to the magical talents of the actors who bring this saga to life, in a way that truly holds the attention of the viewer and then the magic of the music and the singers that perform them. This is a story of love and romance as well as revenge and at the end forgiveness!
There is also music in this production (Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan) performed by Bethany Thomas, Liz Filios, Ethan Deppe and Jake Saleh. The Courtyard stage has been reduced in size allowing for some closer seating, bringing the audience into range of touch with the actors. Daniel Conway has designed a set with many curtains and two tiers allowing for better sight lines and of course the magic that is done as well as the magic we see. The costumes (Paloma Young and Rachel Laritz) are wonderful and Tom Weaver’s lighting perfect in every way. Watching Prospero regain his lost title and rank through the powers of magic, is indeed a magical experience and one that I would strongly recommend to those who are not into the works of William Shakespeare. Yes, the language is “Shakespeare”, but the visuals and the music make this two hours and forty five minutes of theater seem like the shortest of theatrical experiences. Yes, there is an intermission, but you will be rushing back to your seat for Act Two, not wanting to miss a moment. A special tip of the hat to Thom Rubino for the magic engineering and Johnny Thompson for the magic design. They truly make this magical production MAGICAL!
“The Tempest” will continue at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier through November 8th. For a complete schedule visit www.chicagoshakes.com/tempest
Tickets range from $48- $88 and for those under 35, there are some $20 tickets. To reserve yours, call 312-595-5600 or www.chicagoshakes.com
Navy Pier is easy to get to by public transportation and of course they do have parking in the garage at 40% off. Please bring your parking ticket to the theater for validation in order to get that discount.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Tempest”