The Tempest | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Tempest 

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THE TEMPEST, Firstborn Productions, at Chopin Theatre. In the last 27 years I've walked out on two shows. This was the third. Lacking even the energy of bad community theater, Gregory D. Gerhard's staging suffers from all the calamities that dog Shakespeare when his works are reduced to on-the-job training. The poetry is DOA, mired in empty declamation and uninspired recitation. The blocking is awkward, the choreography graceless. The almost animatronic actors move like whipped dogs. The costumes look like rejects from a Gypsy caravan. It's safe to say that the actors in this teapot of a Tempest have few clues as to what their lines mean; it's enough to get the words in the right order. Even the less bad ones, like Kevin McKillip as Prospero and Rebecca Slaughter as Miranda, give the game away by pouncing on certain words as if they could be shaken into sense.

The Tempest teems with spells that must be broken and love that's consecrated by reconciliation. The wrongs done to Prospero are righted by a new generation, with witting and unwitting help from his supernatural flunkies, Ariel and Caliban. Yet despite the tumultuous plot, an elegiac tone persists: Shakespeare sums up all his plays in this play's valedictory ending. Like Prospero he breaks his magic staff, but unlike Prospero's instrument, Shakespeare's work continues to cast spells. Not in Firstborn's staging, however.

--Lawrence Bommer

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