Posted September 17, 2011 | Photo by Karen Almond
OK, we really want to start this review out like this:
"Hey, you wanna see Lee Trull in a 'Speedo' for 25 bucks?"
Buuut, that might be inappropriate and not quite an accurate representation of Dallas Theater Center's newest production, The Tempest.
So, instead, here goes: (and more about Lee later ...)
Shakespeare's beloved play (considered his final one) is the story of Prospero, the former Duke of Milan, (Chamblee Ferguson) and his daughter Miranda (Abbey Siegworth) who have escaped to a magical island after being overthrown by Prospero's brother Antonio (J. Brent Alford) and Alonso, the King of Naples (Matthew Tomlanovich). After twelve years, a storm lands Antonio, Alonso, and others on the island where Prospero hopes to exact revenge and be reinstated to his rightful position.
In this contemporary reimagining, Director Kevin Moriarty and Tony Award-nominated set and costume designer Beowulf Boritt have used a bold, minimalistic approach to create a stark contrast between the dark black suits of the plane crash survivors and the strange, bright white, otherworldly landscape they arrive in. It's a dreamy Lost, 17th century Italian style.
Ferdinand (Steven Michael Walters), the son of the King of Naples, is separated from the other passengers and crew and is feared dead. Spared however by the spirit Ariel (Broadway actor Hunter Ryan Herdlicka) who travels with an airy trail of glitter, Ferdinand soon encounters and falls in love with the beautiful Miranda (especially after she exchanges her baggy, tattered jeans and long sleeve button-up shirt for a pair of almost 'Daisy Dukes' and a sexy halter top). But her father fears that "too light winning make the prize light," so Prospero relegates Ferdinand to the role of servant which he gladly accepts like Jacob working for his Rachel.
With on-the-mark casting for this play, Walters and Siegworth make a perfectly believable couple; and their onstage love is so sweet that you almost want to crinkle your eyebrows at anything that tries to stand in its way. Chamblee Ferguson's full facial hair makes his Prospero seem appropriately old enough to be her father, and his mastery of the heavy Shakespearean dialogue looked effortless (though we know it surely wasn't). Appreciation for Ferguson's dramatic performance was evidenced at the finale by the standing, cheering crowd and by the emotional reactions on the faces of other castmembers which were swelling with passion for the project and what we assumed to be pride for the show and for Chamblee. A great job on a challenging role.
Soooo, you ask ... what about Lee?
In one of several subplots, Lee Trull plays Stephano, an overly drunken butler, alongside jester Trinculo (Cliff Miller) and Caliban (Joe Nemmers), a savage slave who claws his way up (literally) from the depths of the island and vows to serve Stephano, thinking him to have come from the moon. The three are hilarious together, and Trull plays a really good drunk. You know the type: jabber, jabber, funny joke, jabber, jabber, stop, wait, empty blank stare, oh my gosh, is he about to get sick?, No?, OK good, back to jabber, jabber. Makes us want to invite him to our next party ... uh, maybe.
The physical demands of Nemmers' arch-backed slave/monster character effectively called to mind jingles of BC powder commercials from decades past, but all that was immediately forgotten when Trull and Miller suddenly dropped trou revealing their skivvies as they became charmed by the allures of Ed Hardy and Juicy Couture.
Their comedy was a perfect balance for the play's drama (complete with betrayal, sorcery, and murder plots). Add to that the question of madness, factor in some disappearances and reappearances through the large trap 'door', then throw on a couple of cool fantasy creatures like a floating, talking, winged harpy and a frightful 'magic dog' chasing across stage, and you've got yourself a bargain theater experience for just $15.00 - $25.00 a seat!
So, how will Prospero deal with the unintentional intruders? Will the love between Ferdinand and Miranda be allowed to blossom? Will anyone ever get off the island?
Find out as The Tempest runs through October 9, 2011 at the Wyly Theater. And as always, stick around after the play for a free, brief, lively post-show conversation with a cast member where you can hear and share insights.
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