HFOB-N-Tempest | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

HFOB-N-Tempest 

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HFOB-N-Tempest, TriArts Inc. and Adult Swim Ensemble, at Stage Left Theatre. This commedia dell'arte adaptation of The Tempest accomplishes something that hardly seems worth doing: presenting Shakespeare's play stripped of its language. Few would claim that the plot is what makes The Tempest a marvelous work, and commedia is an unusual taste in any event. Though this is fare intended for adults, its masks, pratfalls, and gags have all the subtlety of a Punch-and-Judy show: the style might have amazed and amused unlettered peasants, who benefited from having every joke spelled out and every key line underscored, but offering it to a contemporary urban audience seems willfully backward. The most entertaining part of the evening is identifying the correspondences with Shakespeare's play--but if you're sophisticated enough to do that, you're too sophisticated for humor this broad and heavy-handed.

The ensemble is made up of several exceptionally capable actor-acrobats; especially adept are Allison Latta and Noel Williams. The masks enable everyone to play more than one part, but these two distinguish their characters to such an extent that their curtain call comes as a surprise ("Oh, she played that role too?"). The staging and many of the bits are clever, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

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