Some Shakespearean purists scoff when modern scholars mess with their beloved Bard. They turn pointed noses skyward at deleted lines, and sigh dramatically at contemporary adaptations' tendencies to speed up the action for a general audience. Uptight purists will blow their fucking gaskets at Hillsboro company Bag&Baggage's take on The Tempest.
Director and founder Scott Palmer's update of William Davenant and John Dryden's 1667 adaptation—which re-tinkered the fantastical tragicomedy into a wildly popular Restoration-era political farce before virtually becoming a lost text—is a bawdy riot full of winking innuendos and enough prissy, glam-rock bravado to make Bowie rip his tights.
The company's third outdoor Shakespeare performance in Hillsboro's Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza, Palmer's version of The Tempest, or the Enchanted Isle knocks about 120 minutes off the script and embraces new characters—including aloof sisters for Miranda and monstrous Caliban—to create a kinetic kick in the pantaloons.
The basics remain the same: A group of dopey sailors washes up on a magical island lorded over by the scheming Prospero (a wonderfully over-the-top Scot Carson), only to be met with conflict, monsters and political backstabbing. Love, betrayal and lunacy ensue. But I doubt the Bard would have imagined a slow-motion melee in the middle of an argument, or Prospero utilizing a rather naughty pause in the line "I do not doubt he came…alive." (OK, maybe that last one is totally up Willy's alley.)
The fun of the cheeky dialogue is heightened by the actors' physicality: They gracefully move in unison across the stage with a highly stylized, almost balletic fluidity. As Miranda, show-stopper Amanda Jane Long carries herself like an adorable wind-up doll, punctuating past-tense sentences by daintily tapping her foot backwards on the "-ed" in words like "wanted." Foppish princes flit around with pink scarves, draped in powder wigs and powderier makeup, while romantic leads Ferdinand (Benjamin Farmer) and Hippolito (Drew Mierzejewski, in a turn evoking a hyper-hormonal Jeff Spicoli) show enough comic chemistry to carry an entire show. The sparse stage itself allows the actors to effectively become props—a scene where a dead character gets the Weekend at Bernie's treatment is an especially gonzo choice.
Bag&Baggage should be applauded for crafting this unique and utterly batty comedy. The Bard, methinks, would abide.
GO: Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza, 150 E Main St., Hillsboro, 345-9590, bagnbaggage.org. 7 pm Thursdays-Saturdays through Aug. 13. $14.