Los Angeles Theater Review: THE TEMPEST (Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater Group)

Post image for Los Angeles Theater Review: THE TEMPEST (Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater Group)

by Harvey Perr on September 22, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

PROSPERO IS UP TO HIS OLD TRICKS

There seems to be a plan afoot at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group to give us The Complete Abridged Works of William Shakespeare, a project that could happily go on for years. Purists, who object to cutting even one line of the Bard’s work, may be dismayed, but Denise Devin, who directs, shows real affection for old Will, and, besides, Zombie Joe seems to like everything at his theater to be short and sweet (some might say short and sour, but, once you meet the man, you realize that “sweet” is the operative word). And now, after their stunning productions of Hamlet, Prince of Darkness and Romeo and Juliet, they have come up with a pared-down rendering of The Tempest. What have they got up their sleeves this time?

The Tempest by William Shakespeare - directed by Denise Devin - at Zombie Joe's Underground - Los Angeles Theater Review by Harvey PerrWell, to tell the truth, unlike the two tragedies, which are so familiar that audiences actually welcomed the trimming they got, the more spectacular the vision of the complex and intricate The Tempest is, the better the results. The small space here, usually employed so imaginatively, becomes a liability. What is The Tempest without its shipwrecks? Without the fantastical world Prospero has made for himself and his daughter Miranda? Without the pull and sway of Alonso’s mad pursuit of Prospero?

Oh, the production has its charms, to be sure, but understanding the ins and outs of its multiple plots is not made easy. The charms exist primarily in some of the terrific performances Ms. Devin gets from her nimble cast. The Tempest by William Shakespeare - directed by Denise Devin - at Zombie Joe's Underground - Los Angeles Theater Review by Harvey PerrAriel and Caliban, the yin and yang of old Prospero’s indentured sprites, are delightfully played by Katherine L. Bowman and, particularly due to the way he garbles the language and still brings absolute clarity to the words and meter, Liam J. Cronin. And Stephanie McCall is a lovely Miranda who makes of her something both innocent and stubborn, which makes us understand how real stubbornness can only be borne in true innocence.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare - directed by Denise Devin - at Zombie Joe's Underground - Los Angeles Theater Review by Harvey PerrAnd, best of all, Wallace Bruce is a real discovery as Ferdinand, the hero who wins Miranda’s heart. What he does with the part is so unique that it must be experienced. He is one of the best young interpreters of Shakespeare this reviewer has come across; physically and verbally, he is peerless. And his entrance provides us, quite simply, with the funniest five minutes available in Los Angeles theater at the moment.

But, alas, The Tempest demands a strong Prospero; without that, the play has no anchor.  Micah Cover is too young for the part, too inexperienced to find the poetry in the language or the subtlety in the character, and, The Tempest by William Shakespeare - directed by Denise Devin - at Zombie Joe's Underground - Los Angeles Theater Review by Harvey Perrthough he is a real magician, his sleights of hand are not enough to justify his sing-song delivery or the fact that he seems removed from the other actors.

A weak Prospero keeps The Tempest shipwrecked. Still, anyone who misses Wallace Bruce’s breakthrough performance will be missing the right to say “I saw him when….”

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Denise Devin

The Tempest
scheduled to close October 28
for tickets, visit http://zombiejoes.homestead.com/

Comments on this entry are closed.