By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Elizabethan fanatics should know that Shakespeare Festival of Dallas is about to follow up Shakespeare in the Park's current The Tempest with an encore version and, one assumes, a wholly distinct vision of Prospero's island full of witches, spirits, magic books and buffoons who aspire to positions of leadership. Hopefully, the relatively temperate summer will continue throughout July and maintain hospitable conditions for folks in Samuell-Grand Park to retain their critical faculties for comparison.
As it is, even a springlike final weekend in Trinity Park won't make Shakespeare in the Park's The Tempest seem like any more than an oddity, and a disappointing one at that. Director Covault has redesignated Prospero's domain as a tiny isle off the Gulf of Mexico and nudged his large cast of eclectic ages, sizes and nationalities to speak in very broad Texas drawls. This reportedly worked well when last year Covault set up King Lear's empire as a sprawling ranch in West Texas (I didn't see it), but that's the claustrophobic story of a royal household imploding. The Tempest involves interlopers, wayfarers crashing on the coast of Prospero's floating paradise and attempting an overthrow of regimes. Fact is, everybody in Shakespeare in the Park's current production sounds like they're from different parts of Texas, and some sound like they've been studying the videotape of that 41-year-old John Wayne chestnut The Alamo rather than a live voice coach's instructions.
It's a distracting, chaotic mélange of dialects whose tone is unfortunately set by Nick Sandys as Prospero. Sandys is British by birth with the accent to prove it, and despite all the fervor with which he adores Ariel (Patrice Egleston, Sandys' real-life wife) and humiliates Caliban (a Godzilla-spined Jorge Castaneda), his weird Anglo-Tex accent keeps us at a distance. Couple this with the fact that Sandys resembles a younger, darker-haired Chuck Norris (at least, in this production), and I couldn't make up my mind what this Prospero reminded me more of--a TV Texas Ranger trying to expand his range with summer Shakespeare, or a talented Brit saddled with a concept that's all wrong for him.
The Tempest runs through July 8 at Trinity Park, 2900 Trinity Park Drive, Fort Worth. Call (817) 784-9378.
Shakespeare in the Park's production would be a ragged if acceptable interpretation were it not for the prodigiously able list of Allied Theatre regulars--Jerry Russell, James Crawford, John Wayne Shafer and Ashley Wood--who wander somewhat aimlessly through it without the impact that their collective efforts should presumably bring. They make a puzzling parade of unmet expectations: With this actor sporting bathrobe and cowboy boots, and that one in fedora, bow tie and pale suit, we feel that the costumes have been draped on as heedlessly as the dialects.