If you’re too ADHD to make a habit of seeing Shakespeare on the stage, there’s now a special show for you.
The We Happy Few DC theatre company has bought a rollicking, movement-based, celestial liquor-filled 90 minute version of The Tempest to The Shop at Fort Fringe. The actors wear simple, tight-fitting costumes, there’s original music involved and its rapid-speed pace that will keep your lagging attention-span at bay. This production of The Tempest, directed by We Happy Few co-founder Hannah Todd, has the vibrant energy of a Fringe show with very few of the loose seams.
The Tempest, believed by many to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote, takes place on a remote island. Prospero (Nathan Bennett) was the Duke of Milan until his brother Antonio (Vanita Kalra), in a conspiracy to unseat him from his throne, had him and his daughter Miranda (Britt Duff) kidnapped and left for dead. Prospero and his daughter survive thanks to the help of the courtier Gonzalo (Andrew Keller)and live out their days on a distant island with their slave Caliban (Josh Adams). When a ship carrying the King of Naples (Adrienne Lee) and his son Ferdinand (Scott Gaines) is cast away by a violent tempest and lands on Prospero’s island, we learn that it was due to a spell. Prospero conspires to make his daughter and Ferdinand fall in love, which they do, despite Prospero subjecting Ferdinand to a round of hazing.
The alcoholic steward of King Alonso, Stephano (Vanita Kalra, again, does the best job of playing two completely different characters in one play without changing costume as one can possibly expect, forms a hilarious trifecta with Trinculo (Maxwell Roderic Heaton, who also plays Sebastian) and Caliban as they conspire to overthrow the King.
Kalra is as hilarious as she is limber in her skilled portrayal of both Prospero’s brother and King Alonso’s drunk steward. Kalra, along with the expert slapstick comedy talents of Heaton and Adamsare responsible for most of the show’s laughter.
Closes May 12, 2013
607 New York Avenue, NW
1 hour, 30 minutes with no intermission
Thursday thru Sunday
We Happy Few has made re-mixing Shakespeare their shtick. Last summer’s production of Hamlet was even darker than the original, and had the entire play occurring in the Prince of Denmark’s head. With The Tempest, We Happy Few experiments with slapstick comedy, musical numbers and plenty of stage-violence.
The choice of a postage-stamp venue for this production was ideal. You don’t just hear a thud when a character falls down during a fight scene, you feel it. You notice the beads of sweat pouring down an actor’s forehead. The sound of the dialogue and the music seem louder than life.
For Shakespeare fundamentalists, this may not work. But for those drawn to this type of rule-breaking theatre, We Happy Few’s version of The Tempest should be a good time.
The Tempest by William Shakespeare . Director: Hannah Todd . Composer: John Todd . Music Director: Ben Lurye . Lighting: Jassen Aufdem-Brinke . Set: Curry Hackett . Costumes . Jess Young. Produced by We Happy Few DC . Reviewed by Amrita Kahlil