Monday, October 13, 2014

A Tempestuous Introduction to The Tempest

The TempestThe Tempest by William Shakespeare
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What was that?

I expected a long drawn out battle of mariners versus a violent sea. There's a few lines of sailors fighting a storm at the start and then the rest is played out on land. Ah, "played," there's the nub! For this is an early 17th century play meant for the stage. Not a likely time and place for a lavish production with a water tank, ship and wind machine, though that would've been hella cool. Some Shakespeareanophile tell me my envisioned production went down at least once back in the day, please!

Once I figured out I'd been duped, I still didn't know what was going on. The story felt muddled and frankly not particularly intriguing. Apparently an Italian duke is trying to trying to get revenge on those who ousted him by marrying off his daughter to one of the plotters. That I understood. To make this happen, magical spirits are prevailed upon. That I understood. But who was magical, who was human, who was in between, and what was everyone's motivation, that's where I got lost.

Didn't matter. By the midpoint I'd grasped enough to follow along and what I thought was going to be a 1 or 2 star catastrophe turned out to be a fairly enjoyable romp in a semi-fairy land...kind of a mix between Macbeth or Othello and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I listened to an audio version for this reading. I prefer to hear Shakespeare when I get the chance. I may have received a 4.0 in my Shakespeare class in college (a little more impressive than my 4.0 in my mountain hiking class), but that doesn't mean I understand half of what's being said. Put into context, the otherwise archaic phrases often will reveal their meaning.

The one thing that really perplexed me was that the actor playing Caliban, the monstrous humanoid creature stranded for years on the island, played him - as old timey, racist comedians (and Jon Stewart) would say - "Jewy". Think Alec Guinness' rendition of Fagin. Yeah, heavily over the top. Was Caliban Jewish? I thought his mom - the only person he was stranded on the island with - was a witch from Algiers. Now, I don't know from Algiers witches, but this? What is this? Oy vey...

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