Not quite at sea

The Tempest

Caliban learns to curse—but in an art-deco parlor.

Caliban learns to curse—but in an art-deco parlor.


The Tempest, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday; $15. The Alternative Arts Collective Blue Box Theatre, 1700 Del Paso Boulevard at Oxford Street and Lea Way; (916) 572-5831; Through July 28.

The Alternative Arts Collective

1700 Del Paso Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815
Rated 3.0

Three years ago, David Garrison started The Alternative Arts Collective, producing bold, fascinating productions such as Angels in America, Equus and a gender-bending Hamlet. What made these shows even quirkier was that these edgy adult plays were performed at a children’s art center in Roseville’s Royer Park—a space Garrison would convert for his productions, but he was hampered by the building’s limitations and the distance from downtown.

Garrison has since acquired and renovated a space behind Del Paso Boulevard in an area he describes as a “burgeoning art scene.” He and his team have transformed an old grocery-store warehouse into the impressive, handsome 35-seat Blue Box Theatre, with a beautiful courtyard outside and state-of-the-art renovations inside—so new that the fresh-cut-wood smell still permeates.

The debut performance in the new space is The Tempest, Shakespeare’s story of island exiles, and in typical Garrison style, he’s not content to present the classic in classic fashion. With the help of co-writer Christopher DeVore, Garrison reimagines The Tempest as a dying old man’s dream sequence, and begins the story in a 1940s film-noir style in an art-deco setting.

The scene opens with Cadence (Richard Spierto), a theater legend, in a coma, and family and acquaintances descending into his bedroom suite, all with different intentions—though they all seem to have an interest in Cadence’s missing last script. The action eventually moves into Cadence’s mind, where he has become Prospero, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest begins.

It’s an intriguing and imaginative new take on an old play, with island scenes being acted out in an intricately constructed parlor background. The set and costumes are beautiful and clever; the idea of placing the play in the wandering mind of a diminishing man is inventive; and there are some strong performances that anchor the play.

However, other aspects seem to be still gelling, and, at times, it feels like the restylized story and production take precedence over the performances. This results in some awkward transitions and inconsistent Shakespearean deliveries. Still, there is much to applaud about this creative production: Garrison’s passion and willingness to explore is much admired and commended.