Shakespeare's The Tempest Rides Waves of Words at Dallas Theater Center
Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.
Every season Dallas Theater Center's artistic director Kevin Moriarty finds a way to soup up his Shakespeare selection. His Midsummer had hip-hop music and ended with the cast and audience conga-lining out onto the street outside the Wyly Theatre. Last year's Henry IV featured a Rufus Wainwright song and a set that looked like a skate park.
Now DTC is doing The Tempest, edited and directed by Moriarty to come in under two hours. Instead of a shipwreck, it's a plane crash. Instead of Italian courtiers, the king and his men look like modern business execs.
And instead of a girl playing the sprite, Ariel, it's young Broadway star Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, sporting tight abs and weird contact lenses that give his eyes an eerie birdlike gaze. (Herdlicka, a Dallas native, recently starred opposite Bernadette Peters in the Broadway revival of A Little Night Music.)
This Tempest is a visual masterpiece, with scenery and costumes designed by Broadway pro Beowulf Boritt. The setting is a sun-bleached beach, where the magician Prospero, played by DTC company actor Chamblee Ferguson, and his daughter Miranda (Abbey Siegworth) live a lonely life in exile. The appearance of the crash survivors, who just happen to include Prospero's brother (J. Brent Alford), changes everything.
Miranda falls for a handsome prince (Steven Walters), the first man other than her dad she's ever seen. And Ariel, invisible to all but Prospero, plays some impish tricks. By the end, Prospero has given up his angry spells, set Ariel free and made peace with the king and the long-estranged sibling. It's a huge play, resounding with romance, passionate feuds and broad comedy.
Performances are terrific all around in this production, which places a strong emphasis on making the overlapping storylines easy to follow. The finest bits of Shakespeare's poetry are uttered by the island monster Caliban, played with impressive physical and vocal finesse by Dallas actor Joe Nemmers.
In their way with the words and the impact of wonderful design elements, this Tempest works powerful magic.
The Tempest continues through October 9 at the Wyly Theatre. Call 214-880-0202 or DallasTheaterCenter.org.