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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE TEMPEST
at BAM

WHERE REVENGE IS SWEET, RECONCILIATION IS EVEN SWEETER
By SANDY MACDONALD

  (L to R) Edward Bennett, Stephen Dillane, Juliet Rylance/ Ph: Joan Marcus

In Tom Piper’s set design for this Tempest, there’s real magic underfoot – starting with the ring of sand around which Prospero paces, sprinkling unholy water to conjure the pay-back storm that will shipwreck his usurpative brother, and extending to the watery expanse upstage, where the unengaged players wade and sit, soaking their tootsies, while awaiting their turn to strut and fret.
 
Director Sam Mendes has packed the play into 2¼ intermissionless hours, which fly by like a vivid dream. The arrowlike arc is all about Prospero learning to quell his anger, master his craving for revenge, and own up to his baser instincts (“This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine” doesn’t refer just to Caliban), the better to integrate them with his higher purpose. From the magus we first see meddling with fate, Prospero (Stephen Dillane effects an especially grounded performance) evolves into a true shaman. Can it be that the eye of the storm lies in forgiveness? To get there, Prospero keeps going to his quiet place, and eventually it starts to feel like home.
 
Dillane is well matched by the rest of the company, especially Christian Camargo as an androgynously nymphy Ariel, light on his feet, with elfin sideburns and a long-suffering look. Ron Cephas Jones conveys the coiled fury of Caliban, along with his hunger for acceptance, whatever the cost. Juliet Rylance makes a plucky Miranda – if perhaps a little too English schoolgirl, given her circumstances.
 
The surprise in this production is how secondary the romantic story line proves, even with Edward Bennett doing a lovely job besottedly wooing as Ferdinand, Miranda’s instant inamorato. We’ve been programmed to expect wedding bells to segue smoothly into curtain calls, but in this play they mark a mere way station. “There’s something else to do!” Prospero interrupts, and indeed, the main business remains: the uneasy process of full reconciliation, both outward and inner.

 


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