I had the great good fortune to catch the last night of a compelling version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” at the Smith Center in Las Vegas. While the Smith Center complex itself has two lovely performing spaces, a tent was erected on the arts center property for this inventive production featuring magic devised by Teller (of Penn & Teller fame), music by Tom Waits and his wife, Kathleen Brennan and the artistic vision of director Aaron Posner. The acting, costumes, set and lighting were, well, magical. Even though I was seated just a few rows from the stage, I had no clue how some of the illusions were done including a levitating gold crown and a man standing at an acute angle. Caliban was played by two hunky Pilobulus dancer/athletes who writhed as one, Ariel is played by card sharp Nate Dendy and Prospero was portrayed by fine actor Tom Nelis. Four fantastic musicians punctuate the scenes with vocals, percussion, bass and accordion. Never have I experienced this Shakespearean masterwork with more clarity and delight.
“The Tempest” goes next to A.R.T. in Cambridge, MA for a run May 11 to June 15, 2014. More touring venues may occur, so keep your ears open for word of a production near you. You won’t want to miss this if you are a fan of the Bard, Tom Waits or just plain magical theater.