Well-Intended But Premature
Tempest Opens at 40th Street
The premise of Norfolk playwright Terrance Afer-Anderson’s latest theatrical venture—Tempest, which opened at 40th Street Stage August 28—is intriguing enough. An estranged couple involved in a bitter divorce is trapped together in the New Orleans house they’re battling over in court as Hurricane Katrina bears down on the city.
Forced against their wills to depend on each other to survive, philandering businessman Jean Luc Theroux (Afer-Anderson) and scorned wife Patrice (Sheila Lee) work their way through their issues, which are considerable, to rediscover the pure flame of love which originally brought them together, even as their outer world, like their marriage, crumbles into a sea rising all around them.
The timely opening of Tempest—the weekend of the 4th anniversary of Katrina—should only add to the dramatic impact of the situation, one would think. And the possibility of a happy ending—the rekindling of love and a reconciliation coming out of what all people of conscience must acknowledge was a failure and scathing indictment of a heartless social contract—offers a burst of optimism to a general audience accustomed to images of devastation associated with Katrina’s visit to New Orleans.
But the very timeliness of this play’s opening may have been its undoing, for in no way was it ready for prime time when it opened on August 28. The script needs pruning and reshaping, the direction needs refining, and the actors and tech crew need several more rehearsals—which I suppose they will now achieve in successive performances—before Tempest is likely to rise to its creator’s expectations.
One element of production which was ready on opening night is designer Dave Olson’s set—a raked, neatly shingled roof with a handsome brick chimney and a serviceable trap door through which Jean Luc and Patrice emerge to escape the flood rising from below. Yet, with sound effects suggesting a pounding rain and howling wind, two dry actors on a dry roof work against the suspension of disbelief.
Many such challenges to credibility bother this production, despite good intentions and energetic performances, particularly by Ms. Lee. Yet neither can compensate for the overall impression of a play rushed into production prematurely.
Tempest continues at 40th Street Stage, 809 W. 40th St., Norfolk, through Sept. 19, with Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Admission is $10. Call 423-4084 for reservations.