Although our early summer skies have been mostly dreary and, well, tempest-y, I would still highly recommend navigating the warm weather to see EPIC Players’ final weekend of The Tempest. Even for those readers who are not Shakespeare fans—or who doubt that EPIC’s cast members with disabilities can understand and memorize lines in old English—the performance provides an uplifting and joyful experience. While The Tempest was Shakespeare’s last play (and definitely not his best), watching EPIC Players bring it to life confidently and forcefully provides the audience with new and welcome perspective. The performance is elegantly set, directed, and costumed with 20 cast members, most of whom have disabilities (and a few without). EPIC Players succeed in rejuvenating an 18th century play into a show that feels relevant and impactful today.
To begin with, the casting, by EPIC founder Aubrie Therrien, was brilliant. Although most actors in The Tempest cope with some type or degree of disability, they nevertheless collaborated seamlessly with their neurotypical peers. One of the two lead actors is neurotypical, along with one of the Spirits, and a fabulously drunken Stephano. The part of Ariel was split among three actors, giving several new cast members a chance to shine. Hilariously, one of the goddesses was a male cast member in a baby blue gown. If I haven’t perfectly identified who’s who, so much the better and a greater tribute to all of the actors for their artistry.
With strong lighting and booming sound effects, the audience is quickly immersed in the storm’s drama. The make-up and costumes were also extremely convincing. I have to admit my daughter Samantha looked gorgeous in bright red satin as the goddess Juno. Caliban truly looked like a ferocious sea monster, trailing seaweed from head to toe. Prospero appeared especially regal with his crown and (real) beard.
I could describe the stark and imaginative staging, or the confident energy of the performers, each one bringing his or her best and contributing to the uniquely heartwarming success of the overall production. But some things need to be seen to be believed. EPIC’s production of The Tempest is one of those experiences, uniquely epic.
If I haven’t convinced you to go see this unique production of The Tempest, check out this front page article in TDF Magazine: https://www.tdf.org/stages/article/1920/autism-and-other-disabilities-dont-stop-these-actors
The Tempest is playing at the Flea Theater, 20 Thomas Street in the Siggy Space on Thursday, June 7th through Saturday June 9th at 7 pm and Sunday, June 10th at 2pm. You can still buy tickets at: www.epicplayersnyc.org. Hope to see you there….