The Feast: an intimate Tempest at Chicago Shakespeare Theater | Theater review
A three-actor distillation of Shakespeare’s Tempest emphasizes visual magic.
Seated at the head of a sprawling wooden table, a man forces his two slaves to perform scenes from the past, making them repeat the events until he feels an emotional response. A Beckettian psychological study of exiled wizard Prospero (John Judd), Jessica Thebus and Frank Maugeri’s stripped-down adaptation of Shakespeare’s Tempest is a bleak, absurd look at one man’s efforts to forgive and find peace.
Redmoon’s signature combination of puppetry, masks and movement strikingly conjures Prospero’s magic, but The Feast occasionally sacrifices clarity for spectacle. The condensed, brisk 70-minute story zooms past emotional beats too quickly for them to fully resonate.
Portraying Ariel, Caliban and every other role, Samuel Taylor and Adrian Danzig show off extensive vocal and physical range. Whether giving voice to the gentle Miranda or performing a Punch and Judy–esque hand-puppet show with Trinculo and Stefano, Taylor brings youthful whimsy to his roles. Danzig’s extreme physicality creates an imposing Caliban, leaping off the stage and rebounding off walls, but he can quickly shed that form to take on different characters.
A team of designers led by Maugeri crafts remarkably expressive puppets and masks that are seamlessly incorporated by the performers. The design highlights the connection between Prospero’s illusions and theater’s artifice. Prospero has total power in his world of wooden ghosts, yet Judd is at his most captivating when the wizard releases his magic and his slaves, revealing the weary man who remains when the strings are cut.