Theater Review: THE TEMPEST (Midsommer Flight)

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by Lawrence Bommer on July 8, 2019

in Theater-Chicago


The words can get windblown or contend with sirens and such. But, just as food tastes different (better?) when eaten outdoors, so does the Bard. Embracing all, Shakespeare needs no roof and the sky’s no limit. Now in their eighth season of offering free performances in four Chicago parks through August, this year’s offering, compressed to 95 minutes considering the non-venue, is Shakespeare’s valedictory comedy The Tempest. A late-blooming romance on a magical isle where forgiveness wins out over vengeance, it stirs up the worst in us in order to purge the poisons.

Beth Wolf’s rampaging staging takes Lincoln Park by storm, as the title rainstorm ushers in a human tempest. Stranded by his enemies on an enchanted island and vowing revenge, the rightful Duke of Milan (Stephanie Monday) has transformed himself into the sorcerer Prospero and enlisted the ethereal spirit Ariel (Elana Weiner-Kaplow) and the reptilian misfit Caliban (Richard J. Eisloeffel) into his service. Equally abandoned, Prospero’s daughter Miranda (Jennifer Mohr) remains ignorant of human beings which for her father seems just as well.

When Prospero manages to shipwreck his foes, notably his usurping brother Antonio (Dylan S. Roberts), and torment them with assorted afflictions, a wrathful reckoning seems irresistible. But, Shakespeare, mellowing in his maturity, knows that love is a greater spell than this magician’s handiwork. A “brave new world” opens up for Miranda — and an excuse for reconciliation for Prospero — when Prince Ferdinand (Anthony Jordan Santiago) appears. She instantly feels the power of a most human trance called love. Just as Shakespeare will soon abandon his pen for retirement in Stratford, Prospero buries his potent staff in the center of the earth.

Along the way there’s a courtly masque presided over by Iris (Bailey Savage) and Juno (Alley Ellis), as well as some clumsy comedy involving the drunken and opportunistic wretches Stephano (Tom McGrath) and Trinculo (Kat Moraros), in dirty league with the monster Caliban. With so many scores to settle, well, the Bard never promised us a rose garden.

Midsommer Flight’s rightly sprightly production features a rich score of minstrel music, rapid-fire set switches (including a ship with a human prow), supple and serviceable costume changes, and lots of convulsive entrances and exits. By the end the park, so much manufactured nature, has been domesticated by all-shaping art. It’s become the seemingly inevitable backdrop for a trove of sprawling make-believe.

photos by James Murphy/Trainman Photography

The Tempest
Midsommer Flight
live music a half hour prior to each performance
weekends through August 25, 2019
(Sat at 6; Sun at 2)
July 6, 7 @ Lincoln Park
(2045 N Lincoln Park West)
July 13, 14 & 20, 21 @ Gross Park
(2708 W Lawrence)
July 27, 28 & August 17, 18 @ Touhy Park
(7348 N Paulina)
August 3, 4 and 10 (at 11am), 11
@ Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens
(1801 S. Indiana Ave.)
August 24, 25 @ Lincoln Park
(2045 N Lincoln Park West)
no reservations; for more info, visit Midsommer Flight

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