Entertainment » Theatre

Revel's End - A Tempest Dance Party

by Daniel Neiden
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Nov 1, 2016
Revel's End - A Tempest Dance Party

"Revel's End" is a billed as "A Tempest Dance Party." William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" is one his more malleable plays which, if merely performed with the words in the right order, offers all the makings of every fertile plotline derived from 1610 to today.

Setting it as a pop-up happening in a raw dance space with booze, platforms and microphones and musicalized scenes is a great idea. Why not? A music-filled party-lit room at the welcoming confines of Cap-21 in Chelsea was a great idea, and I was greeted at the door by sultry cast members who put glowstick bracelets on my wrist, choosing my vibe as "Island" or "Royal," which seems to portend some kind of Jets/Sharks throwdown to come (it never did, but the thought remains amusing).

Drinks were served and attempts at co-mingling cast with audience were made. In fact, I was chosen to be squirreled to the backstage area for a dimly lit one-on-one with the actor who would play Ariel. She looked at my bracelets and asked if I'd ever been in a shipwreck. I considered answering that I had been an actor in more than a few train wrecks, but squelched the impulse, opting to share an old memory of being lost at the Nebraska State Fair as a small child (yes, I hear you wondering if they lost me on purpose).

We found common ground in my retrieved memory, and I was escorted back to GenPop wondering how my tale of woe would be shuffled off to Prospero (sorry). Oddly, the bracelets were never addressed, nor were the personal stories. More about expectations to come.

The pulsing pre-show music finally gave way to similar pulsing show accompaniment, which served as an iambic-karaoke jukebox of "Tempest's" songs, of which there are already more than any other of his plays, and composer Jared Arnold channels where the play "sings" beautifully.

The eponymous tempest was portrayed in a very simple and skilled way as a small crowd of cast members on a platform held fast to each other and kept each other from falling off. It was actually lovely, and the cast turned out to be quite an international affair.

Prospero (a commanding Bereket Mengistu from Ethiopia) was fascinatingly dour and used an absurdly large metal pipe-banging-on-platform as a staff to jolt us with each of Prospero's laments and chides. Mengistu joins four centuries of actors who have felt Prospero's pain. No doubt the two of them will meet again.

Brinda Dixit (India) admirably wove Ariel's charms and fantasies to the audience's (and Prospero's) affection; and Miranda was played with a fragile, sweet fealty by Kanae Miyahara (Japan). Will Van Moss (guessing U.K.) is an incredible dancer who kept his eyes on his comely prize through all Prospero's tests and won his love and our hearts.

It's possible that the concept of double casting certain players of this "Tempest" obliged the lesser players to stand out more: As Alonso, the King of Naples, Jaz Zapatos (California, which to some is another country...) portrayed a king's loss of a child/heir with pathos far beyond her years, and imbued the arc from loss-to-reunion (spoiler!) with an incredibly deft touch.

Double cast and thrice deeper as the monster Caliban, Zapatos deftly portrayed the poetic agony and rage of losing her home and freedom to Prospero. Zapatos' eyes tell whole stories, and later, when hope arrived, her Caliban saw a way out, and regaled us with a sassy-voiced song of liberation (one of the best of the night) that simply sparkled.

Caliban's aforementioned hope comes in the form of two hapless, shifty drunks, Stephano and Trinculo, and was played in fine comic collusion by Meghan Crosby and Elisha Mudly, respectively (also Scotland and India). Crosby delivered Stephano's ambition to the comic hilt and possesses a young actor's gift of communicating text to an audience in a way that leaves them craving more, all while jumping between characters. As Prospero's usurping, ambitious sibling, Antonio, Crosby played the shock and shame of being forgiven by Prospero with a lingering and surprisingly childlike wonder.

Much of this success seems due to Mudly being a solid and winsome onstage anchor in both language and movement that was a very palpable element of these successful scenes.

A word about expectations. Grace Herman-Holland is credited as "Director and Creator," which means the buck stops with her. It needs to be said that when one asks an audience to attend a dance party, and posts the invitation in the program to "please listen, enjoy, drink, sing, come, go, and dance with us" it is incumbent upon the director to take measures to protect their actors and their very show from potential dead zones of an unsure audience who may not jump right in, with strategic, pre-emptive measures (healthy manipulation?).

After all, given the current plethora of long running projects marketed as immersive theater, each one ensures their patrons' participation through some now-standard tricks of that trade. I've seen them, and recommend Herman-Holland study how they run their shows, because it doesn't take more than a few seconds to watch a wall of resistance shimmer into view and hear "polite" applause steamroll a good idea for a show, which can (and did) shadow the rest of a performance.

Pre-set measures must be taken. Revel's End" is a very good take on "The Tempest" and I hope to view more of Herman-Holland's work to discover what has synthesized. Watch for her, as well as this international family of players.

"Revel's End - A Tempest Dance Party" played through Oct. 23 at Studio 501 at CAP21 NYC, 18 W 18th St., 5th floor. For information, visit https://www.facebook.com/revelsendnyc/

Daniel Neiden is a writer and composer who develops socially conscious theater projects.

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