Review | Magic and comedy power an enchanting ‘Tempest’ at Round House Theatre



In an exhilarating manufacturing of “The Tempest” now at Spherical Home Theatre, Caliban is a double-headed being, with two torsos and two muscular units of limbs that hurtle him across the play’s charmed-island setting. A pair of comparably fused strengths — entrancing magic tips and really humorous comedy — triumphantly energy this endeavor, tailored and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller (of Penn & Teller renown).

Interview with Posner and Teller

The rarer part, the magic, is as eye-catching as it’s suited to Shakespeare’s story of enchantment and reconciliation, making it no shock that this “Tempest” has had a number of incarnations throughout the nation since debuting in 2014. Objects and other people defy gravity below the command of the sorcerer Prospero (Eric Hissom) and his supernatural servant, Ariel (the marvelous actor and magician Nate Dendy, eerily deadpan). A storm’s menace manifests in a bowl of water, due to a chilling phantasm. Decks of playing cards propagate, fly, dissemble and reconstitute after being shredded.

The magic pulls us right into a world of marvel, which additionally brims with comedy. After falling exhausting for Ferdinand, Prince of Naples (a terrific Ro Boddie), Prospero’s heretofore harmless daughter, Miranda (Megan Graves, priceless), shifts abruptly into come-hither mode, to hilarious impact. The nitwits Trinculo and Stephano (Richard R. Henry and Kate Eastwood Norris) clown expansively. Generally comedy even suffuses the magic, as when a trick involving a cabinet-like contraption suggests a Houdini foray into Looney Tunes.

The comedy has a profitable heat, which is shared by extra critical scenes because the fantastic performing digs into the characters’ individuality and flaws. In a single very humorous sequence, Prospero betrays a stodgy aspect at odds together with his occult pursuits, practically sputtering with indignation as he cautions Ferdinand away from hanky-panky. Not lengthy after, in a comment a few dazzling phantasm that has “melted … into skinny air,” the magician’s tone hints at deep unhappiness about change.

There’s poignancy, too, within the stressed Caliban, collectively portrayed by Hassiem Muhammad and Ryan Sellers, who grapple, fling and steadiness one another with astonishing athleticism. (The dance troupe Pilobolus choreographed.) However he’s additionally uncanny, typically talking in unison in two spooky voices. Elsewhere within the solid, the shipwrecked Alonso (KenYatta Rogers), Sebastian (Kevin Mambo), Antonio (Cody Nickell) and Gonzala (Naomi Jacobson) are admirably vivid.

Anchoring the humor and spectacle, and including wealthy atmospherics, are the present’s scenic and sonic components and Sarah Cubbage’s sharp retro costumes. Daniel Conway’s set is a component cross-sectioned ship, half seedy carnival sideshow, with an upper-level bandstand. Right here, solid members Manny Arciniega, Lizzie Hagstedt, Kanysha Williams and Ian Riggs present music, most noticeably bluesy renditions of songs by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, which sound spot-on on this quirky, enchanted realm.

With music, magic, motion and sideshow ambiance, there’s rather a lot happening on this manufacturing, produced in affiliation with Folger Theatre (the place Posner and Teller’s “Macbeth” was seen in 2008). However the proceedings don’t really feel overpacked or busy. Certainly, the air of profuse exercise helps conjure an island that, as Shakespeare made clear, seethes with spirits and mysterious music. “The isle is stuffed with noises,/ Sounds and candy airs, that give delight and damage not,” Caliban observes. Like his stomping grounds, this “Tempest” is stuffed with sensory richness and delight.

The Tempest, by William Shakespeare. Tailored and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller. Magic by Teller, Johnny Thompson and Nate Dendy; lighting design, Thom Weaver; sound, Andre Pluess; music director and extra preparations, Liz Filios; authentic music director and arranger, Shaina Taub; properties, Andrea “Dre” Moore; magic guide, Ryan Phillips. Two hours half-hour. By way of Jan. 15 at Spherical Home Theatre, 4545 East-West Hwy., Bethesda. 240-644-1100.

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