Nella Tempesta at LaMaMa: Blankets as Breathtaking Art (and Shakespeare Too)

They begin with a blanket – manipulated like a puppet by the actor it cloaks, it comes alive, undulating in a fierce wind.

They end with blankets, formed to ask the question: Is this land mine?

In-between, the Italy-based Motus theater company’s avant-garde interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest offers…other blankets.

The audience at LaMaMa donated some of the blankets. Judith Malina of the Living Theater gave one. We hear her recorded voice at one point during the show: “….everything is stopped and in a way that’s worse than a tempest in which there is much movement and anxiousness and anxiety and ideas.”

This is the third production of “The Tempest” at LaMaMa this season, and it is richly inventive and visually arresting. It mixes in snippets of Shakespeare with text by a Shakespeare-inspired play by Aime Cesaire — mostly spoken in Italian, with English subtitles. Prospero is portrayed by a spotlight, sometimes a blinding light, sometimes a dizzying strobe light, casting terrifying shadows. There are videos of a protest march in Rome for the rights of African immigrants, and a protest march in New York for the rights of African-American men. There are reminiscences by members of the company: Gleni Caci recalls memories of the people’s revolt in his native Albania when he was 10 years old, and how he bought a Michael Jackson cassette with a picture of a statue of Michael Jackson “shirtless, his arm raised….His fist clenched….was Michael Jackson a communist?”

“No,” says company colleague Silvia Calderoni, “it’s the cover of Bad.”

But it’s the blankets that make this show so breathtaking. The blankets comfort, and buffet and transport us.



Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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