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The Tempest: Theater review by David Cote
Shakespeare in the Park has been so solidly enjoyable in recent summers—usually when Daniel Sullivan directs—that it’s sad to find one’s mind wandering in boredom, or eyes glazing over at a banal set. Such is the case at Michael Greif’s glossy, static, weakly interpreted Tempest, a late romance that offers a director the chance to conjure equal parts magic and melancholy. Instead of either, we get half-baked visuals and Sam Waterston as a vaguely rabbinical exiled duke-turned-wizard Prospero, whose enchanted cloak resembles a talis (a prayer shawl).
Greif (Rent, Next to Normal) favors scaffolding sets that fill and compartmentalize the proscenium. Thus designer Riccardo Hernandez furnishes the Delacorte stage with a massive steel catwalk and a blown-up photo of ocean waves in the background. Caliban (Louis Cancelmi) and Ariel (Chris Perfetti) are harnessed in leather straps, like bar-backs at a 1980s bondage club. Waterston is his usual avuncular self, but the verse is wobbly. In fact, most of the elements waver here—except the steelwork, which I would have banished from the get-go.—David Cote
Delacorte Theater (Off Broadway). By William Shakespeare. Directed by Michael Greif. With Sam Waterston, Louis Cancelmi, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Chris Perfetti. Running time: 2hrs 45mins. One intermission.