You don’t even have to like Shakespeare to love the American Repertory Theater’s current production of “The Tempest.” The co-creation of director Aaron Posner and Teller (the silent partner of the legendary Penn & Teller) has enough hocus pocus to keep even the Bard’s biggest detractors engrossed in the action on stage.
If you do like Shakespeare, even just a little bit, expect to be swept away by the magic of this production, both literally and figuratively. Initially, the drowning of Ferdinand (an incredible feat by Joby Earle) may take your breath away. What follows is a slimmed down “Tempest” that boasts extraordinary athleticism, delightful storytelling and an impressive band, Rough Magic, playing music of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan.
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Though Prospero (Tom Nelis), the sorcerer, conjures up the shipwreck of his bitter enemies, the real magic is performed by his spirit friend Ariel (Nate Dendy). With flawless execution and an ethereal essence that balances Nelis’ stiff Prospero, Dendy makes the show seem almost dreamlike. Several audience members at this performance wondered (aloud) if this was in fact Teller, quite a compliment to both the legendary illusionist and his protege.
In another twist, Caliban is played by two men (Zachary Eisenstat and Manelich Minniefee) working in physical tandem, performing incredible gymnastic feats and dance moves while delivering some of the show’s funniest banter.
Equally amusing are butler Stephano (Eric Hissom) and his sidekick Trinculo (Jonathan M. Kim) who stagger both on and off stage courtesy of a cask of wine they salvaged after the shipwreck. Their lowbrow buffoonery is a delightful contrast to the production’s more sophisticated elements.
Despite appearances to the contrary, this “Tempest” is at its core a wonderfully told tale of the power of forgiveness.
If you go
Through June 15th
American Repertory Theater, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge