The overworked phrase, defies description, definitely applies to Mickle Mahers Spirits to Enforce. His 2003 play, in a spellbinding staging from Manbites Dog Theater, has so many layers that calling it a spoof of superhero comics or a riff on Shakespeares The Tempest doesnt begin to catalog its wonders.
The setting is a bank of tables and telephones where a dozen fundraisers are making cold calls aboard a submarine docked at an island. These 12 are the spirits who remained there after Shakespeares Prospero left.
Ariel has led them in a four-century fight for dominance against Caliban, their various powers now morphed into superhero designations such as Memory Lass and Untangler. With Caliban currently locked up, the 12 have decided to put on a production of the play about their origins. But, because superheroes arent paid, they must raise money to do so.
This description may seem ludicrous, but the writing is intelligent and daring. In this 90-minute one-act, characters speak in overlapping and repeating phrases as they make their calls. It takes a while to adjust to the technique, which cleverly allows plot and character to clearly emerge from the sea of sound. At times, these waves subside and short monologues and dialogues surface, combining new lines with those of the Bard. Eventually, the audience pieces together a humorous and poetic picture of the struggle between good and evil, the price of fame and the value of theater.
Director Jeff Storer has molded his actors into a humming engine, their precise, rhythmical outbursts never missing a beat. Thaddaeus Edwards Ariel is a varied portrait of weary hope and nostalgic memories. Marcia Edmundsons Page (reader of all writing) and Prospero have marvelous mystery and majesty. Jon Haas Tune (singer of all songs) and Ferdinand create a winning bond with Jessica Flemmings feisty Memory Lass and Miranda. Carl Martins threatening presence as Caliban, Derrick Iveys manic Antonio and Rajeev Rajendrans candid Intoxicator add to the astonishing array of unusual characters.
Designers Jon Haas (amusing ocean videos), Derrick Ivey (submarine backdrop) and Shelby Hahn (underwater sounds) help create the quirky environment. But this review cant really indicate the unique attraction of this most intriguing and stimulating production.