The Tempest | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Tempest

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Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, at the Theatre Building.

Touring here for a second season, this earnest ensemble at any rate brings efficiency to the Bard, briskly delivering each drama at under two hours in rapid-fire but seldom singsong speeches (the rotating repertory also includes Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead).

Doubling up parts and employing purple, black, and white costumes, colorful props, consistently bright lighting, and a rock score, Shenandoah Shakespeare Express clearly thinks less is more. But regrettably in The Tempest Shakespeare gets flattened by the sameness of the ten talents. Despite (and sometimes because of) their youthful verve and palpable desire to please, little soars and much sags. This sunset tale of a magician who transforms revenge into reconciliation requires more than cute resilience to work its magic: this drama lives in its lyricism, not its clumsy comedy or tedious subplots. Here the broad acting, not declamatory but uninspired, sets the tone even for Prospero's elegiac farewells: Philip Lortie's one-note nobility soon wearies.

A sure sign of the company's tight ensemble work is that no one stands out. Tricia Kelly's smiling mannequin of a Miranda is no more enkindled than Thadd McQuade's acrobatic Ariel, Matthew McIver's pretty Ferdinand, or Darius Stone's rubber-faced Caliban. And unfortunately the actors' frequent eye contact with the crowd--a Shenandoah specialty encouraged by the house lights being full up--is a problem. Less attention to gauging and pumping up audience interest and more attention to the truth of Shakespeare's characters might have stirred up a better Tempest.

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