By Raph al Guul
Despite my own departure from the group last summer, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for The Blueprint Masquerades; this is why this review, even more so than any other, could never be at all above suspicion of personal bias. But in the past years, no one has taken the time to review the premiere of The Blueprint Masquerades’ productions and so I will take this heavy duty upon myself as I finally have some distance from the very heart of their production cycles.
The Tempest, on Shakespeare’s original script written in the early sixteen-hundreds no less, is certainly an ambitious project to take on for the ever-evolving, wholly student-run theater group. It bears the marks of The Bard at his best, an intriguing tale of magic and vengeance which is, for the most part, superbly realized with a talented and in some cases absolutely stellar cast. I would like to single out Andri Erdin as Ariel and Astrit Abazi as Caliban in particular, since they contribute substantially to the theme and tone of the play. Erdin has the daunting task of performing a magical spirit creature that, for large parts of his time on stage, remains entirely invisible to the rest of the characters, which was accomplished not only through clever technical means and costume design, but especially through the very performance itself. Abazi, on the other hand, really contributed much to the now well established colonial angle of the play. One cannot help but see the real-life equivalent of the bewildered native who, for the price of a few sips of wine suffers the abuse and cruelty of the invader, who fuels his rage at the oppressor and his own helplessness.
Less impressive, perhaps by contrast, is the quite stoically calm interpretation of Prospero (Tim Segessemann). It seems to be the direction, though, not the actor who is to be held responsible for this choice, as Segessemann delivers a strong performance even for a character whose conflict is barely externalized beyond expositional dialogue. In their defense, however, while I would single this out as the weakness of the otherwise
expertly directed play by the now well-seasoned Lisann Anders, I was accompanied by a friend who, upon leaving the theater, almost immediately told me how much she liked Prospero in particular; perhaps it is a matter of taste or even a shortcoming on my part that a more toned-down performance cannot excite me as much as an out-of-tune rock anthem to the prospect of freedom sung by a deformed slave playing air-guitar.
Speaking of guitars, the play is accompanied by live music by an entire band boasting a large variety of styles and instruments to really capture the essence of the diverse cast of characters. Multiple instances even feature some of the actors singing, almost turning the play into a thoroughly engaging musical. The soundscape also factors into the wholesomeness of the experience. Unfortunately, the premiere saw a few technical difficulties that, while from a production perspective were all minor, take away from the immersion and especially from the professional image that the rest of the show conveyed so vehemently. Nevertheless, I should stress that the rest of the elaborate technical setup was handled to perfection. As a former member of the technical staff behind The Blueprint Masquerades productions, I can only commend the new crew for their work.
Apart from the show, captivating if not enchanting despite these minor grievances, I found the service, organization, and overall flair of the event to be a great compliment. I was always impressed by how neat and appropriate the entrance area, essentially a school hallway by day, is converted by the group every year. It may however be time for The Blueprint Masquerades to find a solution for the lack of space for their guests during intermission. Their audiences have grown too big for the small corridor and stairwell that lead up to the stage itself. Luckily, this is less of an issue as long as the temperature and weather outside are pleasant, since there is more than enough space there, including a large canopied area.
To recommend this show would be an understatement. The only legitimate reason for why you would not want to attend at least one showing would be a lack of linguistic proficiency. The Shakespearean script is not only a challenge to the performers, but also to the audience. I would recommend reading the play at least once in advance or consulting a synopsis (I believe the playbill on sale at the box office features one) to alleviate any comprehension problems. Plus, Obi-Wan appears in the beginning of the play to give some context to the action that is about to unfold on stage, so you should be able to follow fairly easily. Given you take these steps or are otherwise familiar with Shakespearean English, the show will be well worth the price of admission. In fact, I myself hope I can see it once more before its run concludes on the 23rd of April. You can find information on performance dates, ticket prices, etc. on their website (which incidentally received its main organizational overhaul a few years ago by yours truly).
Images taken from the promotional campaign by the Blueprint Masquerades