Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shakespeare, with comic book flair

By Meredith Deliso

If you always thought Shakespeare could use more ka-pow, this is the play for you.

In “Rough Magic,” running at the Center for Performance Research this month, drag queens, love-struck lifeguards and Coney Island brawls make for a campy reimagining of “The Tempest,” the bard’s classic story of magic, fate and romance.

“The play is modern, but has shout-outs to Shakespeare and Greek tragedy,” said Jesse Kane-Hartnett, an associate director of A Festival of Fools, a company devoted to staging modern verse plays. “I just had to do it.”

With the help of some projection magic of their own, A Festival of Fools will tell the fantastical story of Melanie, a dramaturg who has the supernatural ability to bring fictional characters to life. As a result, she meets up with Caliban, who is on the run in New York from Prospero’s island. 

But when the tyrannical magician (pictured, played by Michael DeSantis) begins to wreak havoc on the city, it’s up to Melanie to defeat him — but not without the help of her young love interest, a high school lifeguard toiling the sands of Coney Island, and the Furies from the Oresteia  — here reinvented as Lower East Side drag queens.

It all makes for great, melodramatic fun, with a few comic book-esque action scenes thrown in among all the heightened text.

“This one’s going to be fun,” said Kane-Hartnett. “We will have drag queens, and they will be fabulous.”

“Rough Magic” at the Center for Performance Research [361 Manhattan Ave. between Withers and Jackson streets in Williamsburg, (718) 349-1210], Jan. 14-15 and 20-21 at 8 pm. Tickets $18. For info, visit


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