Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: Fire Island Tempest

Shakespeare's The Tempest is one of those pieces that treads the thin line between drama and comedy, having elements of both. Unlike many others in his canon, The Tempest explores the surreal with the use of magic, making it an even more interesting piece. With this as a jumping off point, in The Hurricane, writer Bjorn Berkhout transports the Shakespeare classic to modern day Fire Island and gives it the musical treatment.
In The Hurricane, we watch the magical Madame Sparrow, a man in drag taking on the role of Prospero, as she casts enchantments upon a group of marooned businessmen who play a key role in her past all the while she cares for young Miranda who has suddenly fallen for shipwrecked Ferdinand. At the core, The Hurricane is an interesting concept, though it was unclear whether it wanted to be campy comedy or serious drama. The music Berkhout accompanies the story with is like an operetta with very few "complete" songs. The music is very Sondheim-esque. For the most part the entire score lives in the same style and tempo, with the exception of the standout numbers "The Game" and "Adonis". Despite missing some characters, the story stays in line with the source material, though the intriguing Fire Island location could have been explored further. Additionally, the use of magic so desired to be even grander. Though it could have been a budgetary issue, the underused sorcery made the overall style lost. While Madame Sparrow controlled the underscoring at times, among other thigns, it could have been bigger. The concept already filled with campiness needed to go all out camp or back on the Sondheim spectrum.
The Hurricane featured a pretty solid ensemble comprised of youthful talent. Leading the pack was the spiteful sprite Bryce Henry as Ariel. Henry filled the stage with ego and wit, stopping the show with his ode to Ferdinand, "Adonis". As Sebastian and Antonio respectively, Robert Ackerman and Ryan Rhue played well off of one another. Aided by his surprisingly pure vocals, Ackerman played the naive Sebastian with ease. And though he may have looked more like a Ferdinand, Rhue's Antonio was divine with his boyish good looks and a booming voice and evil side. Laura Sudduth's sweet Miranda and Spencer Glass's innocent Ferdinand were a great pair, both offering some beautiful and unique vocals. Mykel Vaughn decked out in drag looked great but was very low in his projection making it difficult to hear him.
Director Taryn Turney made some strong and unique choices, the most daring of which was having the actors remain and sit in stage. With such a bold direction, Turney needed to explore their presence further. She touched upon playing with then if they were referenced but it was too subtle. The costumes by Anna Grace Carter worked quite well with the exception of Ferdinand's mismatched attire that looked like it came out of the Actor's wardrobe.
The Hurricane has all the right ingredients for something special. With a little more care and guidance, The Hurricane can blow again.