Posted by: Mark Nielsen | May 10, 2009

The Tempest – Tossed About by Rage, St. Benedict, & the Theater


One of the crowing production design achievements in Steppenwolfs *The Tempest*.

One of the crowing production design achievements in Steppenwolf's *The Tempest*.

My wife and I saw The Tempest last night at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, the first time they’ve done Shakespeare in their 33-year history. It was really terrific, but for a few forgivable flaws.

The main reason I was interested was it provided a chance to see Ensemble member and giant of the Chicago theater scene Frank Galati act, for the first time in years. And predictably, Frank brought the house down. 

Over the years, I’ve seen several plays that he has adapted from prose literature (his specialty… he won Steppenwolf a couple of Tony Awards with his Grapes of Wrath). And my wife stage-managed or assisted on three of his shows back when he ruled the roost at Northwestern. But as Chicago artist/writer Tony Fitzpatrick says in the theater program, Galati was “born for Prospero or Lear or Big Daddy” (though I’m unsure what ‘Big Daddy’ he’s referring to here). He also says Galati belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Chicago theater, and I agree, except to say he may even belong on the NATIONAL theatrical Mount Rushmore as well.

I also noted with affection that Artistic Director Martha Lavey and director Tina Landau took on the spiritual aspects of the play, most notably the forgiveness theme, in an interview included in the program. Lavey even quotes St. Benedict! Check it:

“The only significance of things is our relationship to them. The idea that we create, or possess those characteristics that make us who we are, must utterly be rooted out. Let no one assume that we are more than passing shadows created from we know not what for a purpose we do not understand.”

Amen, Bennie! And Amen to the entire Steppenwolf team.

Here’s a more traditional review  of the show, from the student newspaper of my Masters alma mater, Loyola University Chicago. And here’s a cool thing: the “in-process” blog on the production, by Steppenwolf creative personnel and cast members.

Show runs thru the end of May. I did Hot Tix tickets for $35 plus fees. Go see it!


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