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“Tempest” in DC Delights, Ariel Soars & Dave Quay Clowns Up a Storm

Tempest 1Taking Amtrak down to Washington DC from New York(and back) is really a delightful way to spend a holiday day away from Mad Manhattan. Even though I was on the Northeast Regional NOT the super-fast Acela, the trip seemed to fly and it was a canny, apt prediction of the delightful flights of fancy Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” I was to witness when I got there.

At Washington’s Harmon Theater, right in the heart of their Chinatown, the Shakespeare Theater Company is now presenting a very creditable, and sometimes absolutely delightful production of Shakespeare’s late comedy “The Tempest.” Often thought of as Shakespeare’s retirement play, it revolves, of course, around the famous character of Prospero, an aging magician and former and now deposed Duke of Milan, who has been exiled to this tropical, semi -Caribbean isle, where he has taught himself all of the black arts of mystery and enchantment and magic.

Talented young director Ethan McSweeney does bring the magic to his production of “The Tempest,” especially in Act Two when he has interpolated the role of “The Voice” for the beautiful, talented Broadway vet Nancy Anderson to sing as larger than life (and almost this stage) iridescent puppets of the goddesses of Juno, Ceres, etc. who seem to dwarf and devour the island. Designed and coached by James Ortiz, this triumvirate parade of monumental myths is proceeded in Act II by Sofia Jean Gomez’ Ariel descending from the heights all in black as an ominous Lady Gaga/Spiderwoman figure with huge black, drapery wings.

In fact, this is the only production of “The Tempest” I have ever seen where Ariel, Prospero’s imprisoned sprite, dominates the story. As performed by Ms. Gomez, this Ariel is CONSTANTLY in flight, literally and figuratively, under the astounding flight direction of Stu Cox, and the flying effects of ZFX, Inc. Sometimes butch as can be, sometimes as light as air, Ms. Gomez’ memorable fairy nymph flies into our hearts and memories.

Part punk-rocker, part gymnast, and part Tinkerbell and all girl, Gomez has an especially strong moment at the end, when her master Prospero frees her and the golden rope she has been suspended from falls to the ground with a thud, as her white, silk robe transforms from something athletic and imprisoning into something feminine, stately and beautiful, and she turns on her former master and doesn’t even look back or say good-bye. Not even a glance backward, she is no one’s slave now. And brava to Ms. Gomez, I say.

In fact, it is the supporting players  and the dazzling Special Effects and Jenny Giering’s ethereal just-right music, that seize this “Tempest” and makes it as magical as magic can be.

Main among the delights is the great young actor Dave Quay’s hilarious turn as the drunken butler Stephano, a role I have never remembered from any previous “Tempest.” In fact, the play barely has a pulse until he arrives stumbling and bumbling and bellowing to great comic effect to wake up the audience towards the end of Act One.

Quay doesn’t miss a beat or a laugh, and he put me in mind of the great Oliver Hardy of the early screen duo of Laurel and Hardy, though he is not stout in the least. He was comically paired with Liam Craig as Trinculo, the also ship-wrecked and also drunk Jester, who was bedecked in jingle-bells so you always knew when they were coming, or leaving, or moving, or anything.(Costumes designed by Jennifer Moeller). It had a very Christmas-y effect.

Less unfortunate is the casting of the central figure of Prospero, the Welsh actor and Stratford Festival regular Geraint Wyn Davies, who was simply too young and too robust for the part of the aging, about-to-retire wizard. I had seen and admired greatly Davies’ performance as the bastard in “King Lear” supporting Christopher Plummer’s great Lear at Lincoln Center a few seasons back.

And this Tempest put me in mind of the problems always associated with casting King Lear, the other great End-of-Life character in Shakespeare. If you have someone who is the right age for Lear, he invariably may be too old or too frail to do it.

There needs to be at least SOME of that frailty in Prospero. In Wyn Davies’, extremely healthy, hearty and hale performance, there was no hint of “The End.” And there should’ve been.

But around him is this great frame of a set by Lee Savage, a great ship-wreck scene that starts the play with a vertiable tempest at sea, and the best use I have ever seen of a chorus of spirits, and I’m going to mention them all! Ross Destiche, Freddie Bennett, Asia Kate Dillon, Ben Henderson, Dan Jones, Matthew Pauli, Stephanie Schmalzle, Kendren Spencer, Jessica Thorne, and Katherine Renee Turner, under the  spirited direction of choreographer Matthew Gardiner. These are the noble, able-bodied and adept souls animating those gigantic puppets under the direction of Puppetry Captain Dan Jones.

 

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VIA Rail’s Lovely Elaine McColloch Explaining the Joys of Canadian Train Travel

Thinking of traveling…Always…And as explained to me last year in the brand new Panorama Lounge at Toronto’s new refurbished Union Station, by VIA Rail’s lovely spokesperson Elaine McCollouch, it sounds irrestible!

I’m Off!

Off to Montreal in the AM! Be back in about a week or so. Taking my computer with me for the first time. Ten hour train ride via Amtrak.

Went to bed at 8:30pm to get up at 5AM to catch that early train out of NYC. But alas, awoke, and now I’m typing this togo to sleep. My first fesrival with a laptop and a cell phone, but the cell phone doesn’t work in Canada! Which is wheret  I really need it! Haven’t had a cell phone before in my life, but it just works in the US. Bummer.

Sleep is eveything at times like this! Good night!

The Impatient Traveler ~Trips Begin Before They Start 2012 version

And  once again, as I madly prepare to depart New York for the Great White North’s two great film festivals, I felt today, like I was leaving tomorrow.

And I’m not!

I’ve still got twenty-five MORE days til I’m officially outta here, and I can’t wait! J’attends avec impatience!

I’m going to the Montreal and Toronto Film Festivals for the 14th year in a row, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! But this year has been more difficult, it seems than any other.

Trips aren’t easy. You can quote me.

And getting an entire television show On The Road, well, it’s never just like one’s going off by oneself somewhere remote. Something I never do.

Lately I prefer to just stay put, although I love to travel, but hey, if I can be being FILMED while I travel, well, that’s what I can now say I like. THAT makes it fun for me now.

And with all these wonderful film festivals with their wonderful films alllll interested in l’il ole me, well, I just love it!

Yes, you’re working/traveling, but I like that. And I LOVE film festivals! And I love film. And I love movie stars. And I love talking to them. As I will be doing A LOT, I hope, coming up at TIFF and Montreal.

I changed all my money into Canadian already and what a shock the exchange rate is now for Americans! Yikes! Canada is doing very, very well financially, and let’s face it, as I had to at the bank this morning, the U.S. is just NOT.

But it’s sooo funny, and rewarding, and thrilling, to see all your money suddenly in pinks and purples, instead of GREEN! I wonder if I look at the world through rose-colored glasses. I think I do. Well, certainly through gay-colored glasses whatever color that may be. Rainbow?

And I do wear glasses.

So of course, my spirit is flying north, and my body just irresolutely stays put. Here. Where it was feeling like 100 degrees on the white-hot pavements.

I got my train tickets. Yes, I’m traveling by train again this year to Canada. Amtrak all the way. And it was very exciting to actually have them in my hands. More so this year than most. A concrete affirmation that yes, I am going at such and such a time and that I’ll be on this train and arriving at this approximation. (Trains always surprise one one way or the other.) And I’ll be taking the Adirondack which is considered one of the most beautiful, scenic train routes there is, going from New York’s Penn Station, which was like an oven today. And arriving ten hours later in the endlessly dazzling city of Montreal.

Montreal ~~~

I could go on and on for hours and hours about how much I love that city. And well, I have been doing that on my TV show, FOR FOURTEEN YEARS. I never miss it. It’s so thoroughly French. You travel for ten hours and then SUDDENLY you’re in France!

I can’t wait! J’attends avec impatience!

But I’ve still got three and a half weeks to go….:(

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