At first, given the emphasis on magic and the dirgey, chant-oriented music, one could be forgiven for thinking “Storm,” a collaboration between international collective Moon Fool and Chicago’s Walkabout Theater Company, might be a sneak peak of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s forthcoming adaptation of “The Tempest,” as envisioned by Teller (of Penn & Teller) to the music of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan. Yet Walkabout and Moon Fool take more liberties with Shakespeare’s text than I imagine even CST is comfortable with. As it stands, purists may want to avoid this one. Everyone else should come right in.
In this production, the choreography is really the main event, though it can be a double-edged sword depending on your proclivity for the highly interpretive. On one hand, the invigorating movement regularly deepens and abstracts the play’s themes of loneliness and the illusion of agency. On the other, like the titular storm itself, it tends to wash away this production’s foundation. As a work in progress, there is no reason to believe that creator/director Anna-Helena McLean won’t temper her own admirable impulses toward acrobatics in order to better facilitate her fascinating adaptation. As it stands, this iteration is a sophisticated yet feral dance performance that contains illusions to Shakespeare.
This production takes a great number of highly visible risks. It is almost a moot point to say that they pay off—they do, by the way—because of the confidence these ensemble members have developed in each other. This confidence is expressed physically, as when Dana Murphy does a trust fall off the top of broad shoulders or when the lizard-like Anirudh Nair climbs a ladder suspended by his cast mates. More importantly, this performance is sustained by emotional interdependence, an ethereal and difficult to pin down quality but one more integral to this performance than all other elements combined.
While I hesitate to call this a performer-centric production, as I believe most people are capable of being enchanted by this mystic spectacle, I do think that anyone who has undergone intense group training will find emotional sustenance in “Storm.” Suffice to say, this is ensemble work at its very best and the result—energized, supple and sometimes literally over the top—is inspirational. (Kevin Greene)
Moon Fool and Walkabout Theater Company at Links Hall, 3111 North Western, walkabouttheater.org, $15-$20. Through June 28.