Aaron Posner and Teller’s adaptation of The Tempest at A.R.T. is now completely sold out, but if you’re willing to get standing-room tickets, you’ll have a great time. Since the production premiered in Vegas, one hopes it travels around, possibly going to Broadway as many of A.R.T.’s recent hits have. If not, this review will be mostly gloating about how I got to see this incredible theatrical experience and YOU DIDN’T GET TO! … unless you did, in which case, wasn’t it awesome?
The Tempest was Shakespeare’s swan song, a reflective piece on the nature of illusion and entertainment, so it’s only fitting that this production goes all-out in terms of spectacle. The magic tricks designed by Teller are stunning, creating “How did they do that!?!” wonder while fitting perfectly into the story. There’s musical accompaniment in the form of Tom Waits songs, which I realize I like a lot more sung by the “Rough Magic” band here instead of by Tom Waits. The cast is all-around excellent. Tom Nelis brings a cool dignity to Prospero, Joby Earle is an amusingly dorky Ferdinand, and Nate Dendy successfully pulls off much of the magic work as the spirit Ariel. The most memorable aspect of this production, however, is the inventive portrayal of Calliban, played as a two-headed eight-limbed creature by two actors (Zachary Eisenstat and Pilobolus captain Manelich Minniefee) tumbling over each other and giving their hilarious line deliveries mostly in unison.
The play itself is brilliant, though I don’t need to tell you that. I don’t even know what I need to tell you given the possible chance you won’t be able to see this production if its journey ends at the A.R.T. this week. But I can tell you I had a wonderful time at the theater tonight, and I hope you’ll be able to experience it at some point if you weren’t able to already.