For their ninth season, The Rude Mechanicals chose to perform Shakespeare’s The Tempest to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first performance of the play in 1611. There was, of course, no way of knowing that a month before the play was to open, great swaths of Tuscaloosa would be devastated by tempests of another sort.
No performance of such a play at such a time in such a place could avoid being influenced by such events; thankfully, The Rude Mechanicals do not try. They are giving half the proceeds from their post-performance passing of the hat to the disaster relief efforts, and even the pre-show musical numbers blend melancholy with defiance in the face of adversity. One of the songs played opening night was a Mark Hughes Cobb original, “Hot Now,” an ode to love found at the Krispy Kreme formerly at the intersection of 15th and McFarland. AnyTuscaloosa resident who has passed that intersection and realized they can now see the hospital would be hard pressed to not be moved by the choice.
Music is central to the island on which the action of The Tempest takes place; as Caliban (Cobb) states, “Be not afeared, the isle is full of noises, / Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not” (3.2.130-1). The power of the island causes characters to break into song as if inhabiting a musical, and even when characters are not singing, off-stage drums and recorders keep the audience aware that this world is one infused with the mystical power of music.
Director Steve Burch’s gifts often manifest in his ability to wring the most out of limited resources, and his staging of the opening storm displays both the brilliance and the limitations of such an approach. In the foreground stands ... Read the rest of the story...