I donâ€™t think I would be accused of telling tales out of school if I said that the best part of this production is the intermission. When you see what four people can do to a stage in 15 minutes is magic. Real magic. The kind of magic that fills the pages of The Tempest but did not make it to the stage of this production.
The Tempest starts with â€“ you guessed it â€“ a TEMPEST. A big olâ€™ storm that tosses a bunch of men in impeccable royal garb onto a desert island. We meet them just after the toss, and if we listen really, really carefully we will get that they are surprised to be where they are and wonder why their clothes are not drenching wet. Fine.
Then we meet Miranda (Elisabeth Waterston)and her dad, Prospero (Mandy Patinkin) who, until today, have been the only human inhabitants of the island for years and years, and today is the day that Prospero wants to bring his daughter up to speed on how they got where they are. Prospero, you see, has created the tempest to bring his enemies within reach. And down we sink.
As Prospero, Mandy Patinkin loves the sound of his own voice. He loves it so much that he more or less goes off somewhere accompanied only by that sound and leaves the rest of us sitting in the theatre waiting for him to come back. Patinkin is charming, earnest, and completely self-referential. When he is with the other actors you get the feeling that he is not listening to them. He is just waiting for them to finish talking. There is just not enough room in his quiver for his voice and Shakespeare.
Too bad, because listen to these lines, spoken by Prospero to his daughter, Miranda:
Sit still, and hear the last of our sea-sorrow.
Here in this island we arrived; and here
Have I, thy schoolmaster, made thee more profit
Than other princesses can that have more time
For vainer hours and tutors not so careful.
Simple to say, right? Nope. In this production the text gets so lost you hardly know they are speaking English. The entire production is mushy and unkempt. Nobody seems to have a clear idea of the story or why they are telling it.