Monday, February 22, 2016

Tempest Redux by William Shakespeare

Tempest Redux by William Shakespeare adapted by John Farmanesh-Boca. Presented by Jack Stehlin’s New American Theatre and The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.
Jack Stehlin as Prospero
Photo by Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin

The words.. it’s the words that make Shakespeare’s plays.  The “redux” in this interesting production of one of the Bard’s most revered plays refers to its re-examination with physical embellishments: challenging and a pleasure to anticipate.  *A note to the Odyssey:  Of course, we want to not be interrupted by electronic devices going off or photos flashing, however, the initial mood of Tempest Redux was totally shattered by a disembodied voice reminding us to turn off devices, etc.  What Stehlin and crew seemed to be attempting as the audience enters the theatre was to create a space for Magic.  The audience has agreed to allow this to happen, but to be virtually scolded and for this magical mood to be interrupted is just wrong. 

Christopher Morillo’s simple set with an unexplained fissure down the middle of the stage provides the roiling sea and all of the locations on Prospero’s Island of Exile.  We meet the players arriving silently one by one. They sit in meditation.  Soon the storm awakens and the castaways are Tempest tossed under Prospero’s magic spell.  Presently, we are engaged by three dancing Ariels: Emily Yetter, Briana Price and Shea Donovan.  This device employs prerecorded echoes of Ariel’s voice that slows the pace to a crawl.  The dancers each are well in sync, but the speed of the magical sprite calls for … well.. speed!  

Director / Adaptor, John Farmanesh-Boca often achieves his goal of including more physicality into the piece and does so best with the choice to cast two actors, Dash Pepin and Willem Long to portray Caliban.  With the long crack in the stage, I’d hoped to see it part and for Caliban to climb forth. This was not to be.  In fact, the physicality of Shakespeare’s comment on ‘the brave new world’ works only to the extent that it is often full of effort.  However, Pepin and Long erupt beautifully as the Moon Calf and the workout works better than the three Ariels. 

Mimi Davila as Miranda was slow to emerge.  The actors in many cases were engaged in individual ways. Stehlin, along with Pepin and Long seemed to be committed viscerally and artistically.  This is not to say that the play is not worthy of an audience. It most certainly is.  Perhaps my expectations arrived a bit high. Never a good idea when the goal is to arrive excited to see how the Bard may be reinterpreted by a troupe of well trained actors. What I love most about Artistic Director, Ron Sossi (now in his 47th year of production of classical and experimental theatre) and The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is their commitment to bursting the envelope in exploration of what Theatre is supposed to be and what it may accomplish.  His reaching out to The Company Theatre by hosting The Hashish Club many years ago remains a wonderful collaborative gesture. 

Tempest Redux
By William Shakespeare
adapted  and directed by John Farmanesh-Boca
Odyssey Theatre
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Feb. 20 – April 10:
Wednesdays at 8 p.m.: March 9* and March 30 ONLY
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: March 3, March 17, March 24 and April 7 ONLY
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 26; March 4, 11, 18**, 25; April 1*, 8
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 20 (opening), 27; March 5, 12, 19, 26; April 2, 9
Sundays at 2 p.m.: Feb. 28; March 6, 13, 20*, 27; April 3, 10 (no 2 p.m. matinee on Feb. 21)
Sunday at 5 p.m.: Feb. 21 ONLY
*Post-show discussions take place on Wednesday, March 9; Sunday, March 20; and Friday, April 1,
**The third Friday of every month is wine night at the Odyssey: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show.
Tickets and Information:
• (310) 477-2055 ext. 2

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