The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review
The Tempest

We all were sea-swallow'd, though some cast again (And by that destiny) to perform an act Whereof what's past is prologue; what to come, In yours and my discharge. — Antonio
Sam Waterston and Francesca Carpanini (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)
It was to be anticipated that Sam Waterston would add Prospero to his repertoire having already tackled the titular roles of Lear and Hamlet among the thirteen productions in which he has appeared in plays for the Public Theater. Finessing the quixotic emotional rants and rages of the tempestuous sorcerer in The Tempest Waterston appears to be slightly outside the comfort zone of this seasoned actor who is probably best known these days for his role in the TV series Law and Order for sixteen seasons. He does, however, make a commendable effort to stay in full command of the proceedings, both magical and practical from start to finish in Shakespeare's fantastical tale of forgiveness and reconciliation.

This first production of the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park season opens gently but quickly segues to the violent storm at sea in which a ship its passengers and crew become its victim. This scene has been cleverly devised by director Michael Greif with the requisite sturm und drang. Sailors in black slickers scuttle up and down the ship's rigging amid the flashes of lightning and the crash of thunder before being hurled into the sea. It's one for few exciting scenes in a staging that is seriously in search of excitement or any presence of wizardry.

For the most part set designer Riccado Hernandez's turbulent seascape projected onto three large panels is minimalist. A metal bridge spans the island where the survivors find themselves. The spacious playing area of wooden planks is dressed with only one small pile of black rocks.

One could quibble that a floor of wooden planks instead of a sandy beach is not suggestive of an island is either tropical or under enchantment, but there will be some conjuring afoot to be sure. In fact, the special effects are egregiously in short supply in this somewhat stolid and studied production.

I have no complaint that there is actually less plot than meets the ears in this comedy that seems to be about how much of your world you are willing to give up in gaining the world. The play essentially reveals how Prospero, after unfairly getting the gate as the Duke of Milan and set adrift at sea to die along with his daughter Miranda, is marooned on an island inhabited only by some strange creatures. Surviving by his own wits and the wisdom derived from his only possession, a book of magic, Prospero becomes a student of metaphysical science and controller of nature in an enchanted land. With his devoted servants, the sprite Ariel, whom he rescued from a witch, and the monster Caliban, the monstrously grotesque son of the witch, Prospero reigns supreme...that is, until the day the survivors of a shipwreck make it to shore.

It takes patience to become rapt listening to Prospero's pontifically philosophical words, even as earnestly bellowed by Waterston. With his white beard and white hair — nicely trimmed to compliment his white shirt, black slacks and comfy sandals —, Waterston slyly delivers orders and declarations with an air of satisfaction. All are clearly punctuated with fits and starts of self-mockery.

An appropriately vivacious Francesca Carpanini looks lovely in the scalloped white dress (one wonders immediately "who" is she wearing...designer Emily Rebholz that's who) in which she romps about as the perfect and peerless Miranda, who has seen no man other than her father.

Blithe is the word for Chris Perfetti as the spirit Ariel, who diverts as much with his singing as with his darting about in casual attire. His torso is curiously strapped with something akin to a harness, a fashion statement that is also affixed to the mud-covered, muscular Louis Cancelmi as the monstrous, physically distorted but mentally diabolical Caliban.

Rodney Richardson convinces easily as Ferdinand, "the goodlier man" that Miranda falls for at first sight. In responsible if not extraordinary support are Bernard White as the "good old lord" and philosopher, Charles Parnell as the remorseful King of Milan and Cotter Smith, as Antonio, Prospero's brother, the wicked usurper.

As I am never disposed to loving the obligatory dopes and drunks that cavort through Shakespeare's plays, I remain as ever immune to the protracted shtick offered by Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Trinculo, the jester, and Danny Mastrogiorgio as Stephano, the King's butler. Act II finally brings to the fore the play's most visual treat: an imaginative ballet-like gathering of the creatures of the island. This explosion of color and movement is long-awaited and an unexpectedly lovely prelude to the play's celebratory climax, hardly plausible but suitably palatable.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Directed by Michael Greif
Cast: Sam Waterston (Prospero), Francesca Carpannini (Miranda), Chris Perfetti (Ariel), Louis Cancelmi (Caliban), Olga Karmansky, Tamika Sonja Lawrence, Laura Shoop (Spirits), Chjarles Parnell (Alonso), Frank Harts (Sebastian), Rodney Richardson (Ferdinand), Bernard White (Gonzalo), Rico Lebron (Adrian), Brandon Lalm (Francisco), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Trinculo) Danny Mastrogiorgio (Stephano), Matthew Oaks (Master), Nicholas Christopher (Boatswain)
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes including intermission
Shakespeare in the Park, The Delacorte Theater is accessible by entering at 81st Street and Central Park West, or 79th Street and Fifth Avenue.
FREE TICKETS to The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park are distributed, two per person (age 5+), at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park beginning at 12:00 p.m. on the day of each performance.
From 05/27/15 Opened 06/16/15 Ends 07/05/15
Reviewed by Simon Saltzman based on performance 06/11/15
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of The Tempest
  • I disagree with the review of The Tempest
  • The review made me eager to see The Tempest
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
The New Similes Dictionary
New Similes Dictionary

Fun Home Fun Home -CD
Our review of the Best Musical Tony winner

The King and I The King and I -CD
Our review of the Best Musical revival Tony winner

American In Paris American in Paris -CD
Our review of the Best Musical Tony runnerup


©Copyright 2015, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from