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The Tempest at East-West Players, Los Angeles

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No time right now for a full review — I have to reread the text first — but if you’re in LA you must see the production of The Tempest by the East-West Players. Last three performances Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon. I saw it tonight, and I’m still reeling.

If, like me, you’re a Shakespearean purist, you’re going to find this hard to believe. The text is “adapted” (mostly just cut) by director Andrew Tsao, so the whole thing runs just 90 minutes, without an intermission. No “You do assist the storm,” no “Born to be hanged.” Ferdinand and Caliban are doubled. Ariel and Miranda are doubled. The Ariel/Prospero relationship is highly sexualized. Gonzalo is played by a woman. Just the sort of screwing around with the Bard we hate, right?

Wrong. It works. It works spectacularly. Partly because the directing is terrific, partly because the acting — especially by Matthew Yang King and Gwendoline Yeo in the doubled roles — is superb, partly because Tsao is actually on to something in the doublings, Ferdinand/Caliban in particular. The net result is the most powerful and moving Tempest I’ve seen in thirty years.

Run, don’t walk.

East West Players
120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles
(213) 625-7000

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About Mark Kleiman