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Posts tagged ‘The Tempest’

A Star is Born! Ross Destiche Burns Up the Stage in DC “Equus”!

Ross Destiche 2As an avid theater-goer and critic, you hope that lightening strikes the stage you’re watching, and it certainly did in Wash.D.C.’s U Street area where Ross Destiche is burning up the stage in “Equus”. He is simply astounding in the oft-revived Tony -winning play by Peter Shaffer, Destiche is so incendiary as well as powerful as the disturbed (un)stable boy who blinds six horses, that I’m going to say that Ross Destiche, who is being valentin-ed by the local press, is the best Alan Strang I’ve ever seen. And yes, that includes Daniel Radcliffe’s recent Broadway star turn that the Drama Desk nominated for Best Actor, but the Tonys did not. But the production co-starring the late Richard Griffiths sold out anyway.

If Ross Destiche’s performance was on Broadway in this role, he’d WIN a Tony!

He is not only movie-star handsome with a chiseled cheekbones and a body like a  Greek god carved in blinding white marble, he’s got the blue-est eyes imaginable. His eyes magnetize the audience. You see, the Constellation Theatre Company’s stage is teeny-tiny and the set by A.J. Guban is a huge triangular thrust. And director Amber McGinnis Jackson (yes, a woman directed this most homo-erotic of plays), places Destiche’s tormented Alan on-stage for almost the whole proceedings. Perched on the tip of the triangle, curled up into a teenage ball of pain, Destiche is in a position where he can scrutinize every member of the audience.

He gave me such a look of blinding hostility as I took my seat, that was absolutely chilling and disturbing and absolutely right for the character. He immediately scared the living daylights out of me. A classically trained actor from Minnesota, where he graduated with a BFA from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Program, Ross Destiche just has the word “Star” stamped all over him. Every inch.

His Act Two extended nude mad scene was unforgettable. When I got to interview him after the show, he wanted to make sure I gave full credit to Emily Kester, who he plays opposite, who is also completely nude, as is Destiche for that astounding Second Act. She was effortless and utterly comfortable in what could have been a very uncomfortable situation, being that the audience was “THIS close.”

“I couldn’t have done what I do in that scene without her,” Destiche told me. Sounding kind of astounded at just how powerful that scene between them is.

Kester plays the part of the cocky stable girl who coaxes him out of his clothes as she takes off hers.

He caught my eye in a small part in Ethan McSweeney’s “The Tempest” last year at the Harmon Shakespeare Theatre, sort of a DC equivalent to Lincoln Center. He stood out even then in a nearly wordless emsemble part.

And so when I received the news that he was garnering raves in “Equus.” I made sure I made my way down-there post-haste. And Destiche didn’t disappoint. He was thrilling.

He made sense out of the psyche of a role that always seemed inexplicable to me, no small feat.Ross Destiche 2 Ross Destiche 1

I told him that I felt he was one of America’s best young actors.

And the only thing wrong with this production of “Equus” is that it’s in DC, and it’s closing on Sunday and the Broadway & Hollywood Theater Godz will likely not get to see it.

But they’ll remember the name of Ross Destiche. He’s going to be very, very famous. And soon.

 

“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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