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Shakespeare resistance, like vaccine hesitancy, is a condition incomprehensible to those who don’t suffer from it. What’s not to like about the greatest playwright who ever lived? Yet if I had to guess, I’d say that most Americans—because they know his works from the page, not the stage—dislike him. The problem is that his plays were written to be watched and enjoyed in the theater, not slogged through in school. The superficial difficulties of understanding posed by their elaborate, at times archaic language evaporate in performance.
You’d think the pandemic would have given locked-down Americans a chance to brush up their Shakespeare —on screen. But while many of his plays have been successfully turned into commercial movies and made-for-TV films, comparatively few productions were newly webcast by theater troupes in the U.S. in 2020, mainly because the casting demands were too onerous. Now Philadelphia’s Lantern Theater Company is streaming an archival video of “The Tempest” taped in 2018 at a live performance in the company’s 120-seat auditorium. I first made the Lantern’s acquaintance three months ago when it webcast an extremely impressive video-only revival of Brian Friel’s “Molly Sweeney,” and this production, modestly scaled yet artistically ambitious, confirms my already-favorable impression of the company….
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