Theater Review: The Tempest

By William Shakespeare; Directed by Silviu Purcârete; Marin Sorescu National Theater, Romania.

The Tempest (photo credit: FLORIN CHIREA)
The Tempest
(photo credit: FLORIN CHIREA)
This Tempest seems to take place entirely in the mind of a peevish, lonely, bored old man in a nightcap and ratty brown robe who lives in a musty, shabby, ill-lit apartment with, perhaps, only another older man, Ariel, for company. Purcârete’s version seems to be based loosely on Prospero’s famous Act IV speech in which he tells Ferdinand that “the baseless fabric of this vision... shall dissolve/ and... leave not a wrack behind.”
“Seems” and “perhaps” aren’t enough, though. This Tempest goes nowhere and ends as purposelessly as it begins, with the old man asleep or dead in his ratty robe, almost indistinguishable from a big pile of brown paper heaped in a corner, and the space invaded (as at the start), by a bunch of heedless 18th-century fops.
The old man is Prospero (Ilie Gheorghe) and if there’s a glory to this production it’s how Gheorghe renders the text. He relishes the lines, shapes the words and awards us beauty.
In this Tempest Sorvin Leoveanu plays both the savage Caliban and, clad in a brown paper dress that gets frequently torn, the innocent, pure Miranda, Prospero’s daughter.
Why? To suggest that good and evil reside in us equally? That we must choose? Brown paper, sometimes blizzards of it, features largely, perhaps suggesting the ephemeral nature of our time on earth. “We are such stuff/ as dreams are made on; and our little life/is rounded with a sleep,” says that same Act IV speech.
Tempest takes place on a magic island where Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan, holds sway and to which, by his powers, he has conveyed his enemies. He seeks not bloody revenge, but restitution, and uses his arts toward that end. His servant in this is Ariel (Valentin Mihali), not the “airy sprite” of Shakespeare’s play but a middle-aged clown figure who performs his tasks with a weary resignation.
There’s one scene that conveys the wonder that Tempest seeks to evoke: that in which Ferdinand (actress Romanita Ionescu) and Miranda declare their love. The scene is done with puppets. Entertaining too are the scenes featuring Caliban and Tempest’s comic relief, the jester Trinculo and drunken butler Stephano, gleefully played by Nicolae Poghirc and Constantin Cicort.
Purcârete is quoted on Tempest that “it’s a dark and mysterious labyrinth with many entrances.”
It’s a shame that this production just flounders around in the maze and doesn’t find a center.