By William Shakespeare; Adapted and Directed by Tae-Suk Oh
Produced by Mokwha Repertory Company
Off Off Broadway, Classic Play
Runs through 10.23.14
La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4 St.
by Keith Paul Medelis on 11.20.14
Yeonju Jung as Miranda and Bonghyun Kim as Ferdinand in The Tempest.
BOTTOM LINE: This rare gift of theater is something to be cherished.
There’s something wonderful about reading your way through a production you can only understand otherwise through staging. Sometimes you may chose to glance up or just find yourself wandering and enjoying whatever loss may come. And it’s with one of the final slides of the supertitle projections that the story becomes immediately focused. After Caliban is freed from Prospero’s grip (literally here as director/adaptor Tae-Suk Oh has a two headed moon-calf in store for us) a slide reads, “Freedom. Freedom? Freedom...” with beautiful punctuation in store.
Indeed that is what this production is about. The Tempest it barely is. But a play about our desire to control our world -- what would you do if you were king? -- and what ultimately does not being in control give you? From a shipwreck, to magical slavery, to the unpredictable nature of love's binding grip we are subject to forces we cannot fully understand or control.
The plot is certainly dotted with Shakespeare though we are told via a program note that it is also borrowed from Korea's Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms. Alonso (Jingak Chung) here has a son, Ferdinand (Bonghyun Kim). Separated along with others in a shipwreck, the journey of the play is the attempt to find his lost son known to us as the Prince. Through a bit of Midsummer-like magic a spell in conjured on the Prince who falls in love with Miranda (an amazing, curious Yeonju Jung) to Prospero’s (Youngkwang Song) growing concern. We have the usual conspirators of Sebastian (Joonbum Kim) and Antonio (Joohyeon Jeong) who wonder themselves what being a king would be like. The answer: sort of anarchistic with a touch of puritanical female chastity -- Caliban (Seungyeol Lee and Minji Lim), joined with Miranda, want to steal Prospero’s book and, thus, his magical powers, and naturally a sake drinking Stephano (Seungmok Cheon) and Trinculo (Kunil Bae) make enjoyable appearances. Complete with a brief and wonderful trip to the underworld, this Tempest won’t be like any you’ve seen before.
Mia Yoo has designed a series of programs titled LaMama Earth as a kind of response to Hurricane Sandy and our growing awareness of the power of, well, Mama Earth. This is an important production to have in the lineup. And more so than any Western production has the capability of, we are made aware of nature's hold on humanity. This Tempest is populated with a menagerie of animals with spirited, mischievous tendencies. What a wonderful thought to bring this obvious addition to Prospero’s magic island. They sing of the natural world and the errors of its abandonment. Along with Prospero’s final (and nearly only intact Shakespearean line) “let your indulgence set me free” we are told that whenever we are troubled, know there is a gentle breeze coming. The tempestuous winds that can harm in hellish ways will ease and subside into cooler, calmer times.
(The Tempest plays at The Ellen Stewart Theatre through November 23, 2014. There are shows Friday and Saturday at 8PM and Sunday at 4PM. The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $30 and $25 for students/seniors, and are available at ovationtix.com or by calling 646.430.5374. For more visit http://lamama.org.)