Every once in a while we need a big sea change,” declares a performer in Nella Tempesta, a ruminative and resonant production by Italy’s Motus Theatre Company. Motus has previously reflected on people-power and utopian change: Its 2012 La MaMa presentation, Alexis. A Greek Tragedy, juxtaposed the 2008 police shooting of a teenage protester in Athens with riffing on Sophocles’ Antigone. Conceived and directed by Daniela Nicolò and Enrico Casagrande, Nella Tempesta rehearses contemporary political action while probing Shakespeare’s Tempest and Une Tempête, Aimé Césaire’s post-colonial response, in which the slave Caliban speaks truth to power and seeks
revenge on his masters.
In this loose theatrical mosaic, a storm gathers, with reverberations in many different layers. On one level the tempest threatens to disrupt hierarchies — calling to mind Shakespeare’s shipwreck, which turns masters into servants and princes into laborers. Motus also invokes Hurricane Sandy, with portents of climate change and social devastation. But it threads together related struggles, too — for instance, for the rights of migrant peoples, shown in video of recent marches in Rome. Audience members are invited to bring blankets, which Motus shapes into a moving statement on the stage floor. This isn’t so much a drama as an evocative theatrical search through the symbolic sphere. Nella Tempesta can be discursive, but ultimately it makes an elegiac and stirring forecast of bad political weather headed our way.