Several talented actors and a venerable local theater go halfway to waste in this experimental grab-bag production of Shakespeare's magnum opus. The set is a jumble of Prospero's books very good. But why are they junk? Why is Prospero reading Reader's Digest, encyclopedias, and two copies of the Trivial Pursuit game? It's a bad sign.
In the production's press release, director N.J. Smeets puts nontraditional casting at the center of her artistic vision. Very good. But the point of non-trad is to let the actors act, and to keep the audience inside the illusion of the story where the ethnicities of the professionals onstage don't matter. We don't get that here. We get a slapstick drunken Irishman with a brogue so thick we wonder what he's saying, and an Indian whose subcontinental accent and figure-eight head-bobbing have a similar effect: too broad and too cheap. Carl Crudup is a good Prospero, with a gigantic, sonorous voice and a good grasp of blank verse. But his staccato delivery comes to feel robotic because its tune just doesn't change. Where we expect cuts in the pageantry of Miranda and Ferdinand's wedding, with its pagan Goddesses and allegorical rites we get what feels like a lengthy music video. The Shakespeare songs are set well ('Full Fathom Five' gave me chills), but the canned tracks in both the wedding scene and the intermission yanked me into wondering what the point was.
Photos by Angie Hill