Prospero puts on a play | Performing Arts Sidebar | Chicago Reader

Prospero puts on a play 

The Tempest becomes Beckettian meditation (with puppets) in The Feast

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Adaptor-directors Jessica Thebus and Frank Maugeri have reduced The Tempest down to its essential narrative elements and reframed them as kind of meditation, reminiscent of nothing so much as Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett. Like Krapp, Shakespeare's exiled Prospero is seen as a lonely old man poring over his story—playing it out for himself as if he were about to die and wanted finally to get it clear in his head. But where Krapp conducts his inquiry with the help of a reel-to-reel tape recorder, Prospero uses the two slaves over whom he maintains a magical hold: ethereal Ariel and beastly Caliban. Between them, they act out the shipwreck that brings Prospero's enemies to his island home, the romance between Prospero's daughter and a young prince, even the low-comedy conspiracy hatched by Caliban and a pair of fools. It's never made clear whether the exercise amounts to anything more than an indulgence for Prospero. Is the show just a bittersweet pageant? Or is it the means by which Prospero's magic works itself out in the real world? I don't know, though I do care. But better to be stuck with that puzzle than to miss this imaginative, suggestive work, exquisitely realized by a cast that includes John Judd, Samuel Taylor, Adrian Danzig, and a marvelously un-Beckettian retinue of puppets and masks.

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