Artistic director P.J. Paparelli reviews The Tempest
The American Theater Company artistic director gives his take on Julie Taymor's The Tempest.
The movie An adaptation of Shakespeare’s final play from Julie Taymor (Frida, Across the Universe), this ’80s-style fantasy movie stars Helen Mirren as the deposed duchess “Prospera”—a female version of the play’s duke, Prospero.
The expert PJ Paparelli is artistic director of the American Theater Company and the former associate director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.
Did you see Taymor’s Titus? How would you compare it to The Tempest?
In Titus she was much more successful…Like Across the Universe, [The Tempest] went out of control. The special effects were just annoying because they just weren’t that good.
It was bizarre because the movie had long stretches of quiet—just actors and waves crashing against rocks—and then it would pile on cheap-looking effects.
She knows better than that with Shakespeare, I think…. What’s extraordinary about The Tempest is that Shakespeare’s experimenting with the flow of language. So I was excited to see some of the bare landscapes like you’re talking about.… However, it was inconsistent. I thought, All right, she’s going to come up with this brilliant way of dealing with the spirits that’s going to be suggestive, but the technology—I felt like I was watching Jesus Christ Superstar.
What did you think of turning Prospero into Prospera?
That has been done before. Olympia Dukakis and a lot of great actresses have played her. I do find it a little offensive to just change the text…. I think it’s inherent in the DNA of the play that it’s a male, it’s a father protecting Miranda, who’s the only female in this world with all these sordid people and this one young man I think Prospero sees himself in.… That is lost. Why does [Prospera] give her daughter over to this man? There’s something about the men in this world that was important to Shakespeare. But was [the gender switch] handled well? Yes.
The Tempest opens Dec 17.