Director David Herskovits throws a 20th birthday for Target Margin Theater by drawing on some five centuries of theatrical traditions with in his joyously overstuffed staging of The Tempest. He impressively marshals a bounty of whimsical inventiveness for the Bard’s tale about Prospero’s revenge on the men who banished him to a desert island. The mashup isn’t always successful, but it has a cumulative effect that proves intoxicating.
The play’s fussy, aurally bombastic opening underwhelms, setting the stage for a potentially disappointing production. But when the theater transforms into an 18th-century jewel box (thanks to scenic designer David Birn), it’s nearly impossible to not be sucked into the piece. Birn’s work is matched by both Carol Bailey’s merry, period-traversing costumes, and by the eight songwriters who’ve penned original music that references jaunty airs to edgy electronic.
The show’s design is so consistently strong you may find yourself wishing the performers’ work was as uniformly exceptional. The clowns disappoint, and Mary Neufield’s turn as the malevolent sprite Caliban is heavy-handed. Thankfully, though, Steven Rattazzi, grave and well-spoken as Prospero, and Clare Barron, delicately ethereal as his daughter Miranda, deliver turns that are simultaneously modern and classical, and also, quite simply, bewitching.