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Originally published Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 9:43 AM

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'The Tempest Replica': dazzling dance, stage wizardry in Seattle

Crystal Pite's "The Tempest Replica," performed by her troupe Kidd Pivot, reinvents Shakespeare's "The Tempest" with dazzling dance and stage wizardry. It's at On the Boards through Oct. 25, 2012.

Seattle Times arts writer

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES

'The Tempest Replica'

8 p.m. Thursday, On the Boards, 100 W. Roy St., Seattle; sold out, waiting list available, $12-$20 (206-217-9888 and www.ontheboards.org).
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Dance review |

Kidd Pivot's "The Tempest Replica," choreographer Crystal Pite's take on Shakespeare's "The Tempest," starts with the simplest of games.

Island ruler Prospero, seated on the stage floor, fashions a fleet of paper boats in a brooding yet childlike manner. But when he hands one to the island's airy spirit, Ariel, and utters the word "shipwreck," he triggers a dazzling play of high-tech stage wizardry that sweeps you up for the next 90 minutes and never lets you go.

In her earlier work, Pite enchanted Seattle audiences with her blend of artful theatrics and cutting-edge dance. But with "The Tempest Replica," she outdoes herself. Text, sound, light and movement intertwine as magically and swiftly as in a fever dream. Shadows and illusions abound. And her dancers have never been so precise — or so brilliantly abandoned.

The synopsis, given in the program, follows Shakespeare's tale faithfully. Prospero, exiled with his daughter Miranda to a desert island, wields occult powers through Ariel and has made Caliban, the island's monster, his slave. When a royal party that includes Prospero's traitorous brother nears these shores, Prospero conjures a storm with Ariel's help, wrecking their ship and planning his revenge. By play's end, love has unraveled his schemes, inducing him graciously to yield his power.

"Replica" retells Shakespeare's classic in two ways. The first half presents the story as a kind of dumbshow. Prospero (a suitably chilly and commanding Eric Beauchesne) is in street clothes, but the characters he manipulates are wrapped and masked in angular paper-white, echoing those paper boats. (The eerie outfits are designed by Nancy Bryant and built by Linda Chow).

The dancers, disguised to the point of anonymity, move with a finely detailed robotic animation, twitching and turning in time with a startling array of sound effects. Pite's wit, perfectly embodied by her dancers' lithe movement, is sharp enough to get a few laughs. But the action remains intense throughout.

In the second half, the dancers, stripped of disguise, closely echo the movements of their "replica" selves, but become monkey-limber in doing so. In scenes of struggle, they vocalize (grunts, moans, mutters) in ways they didn't before. In becoming more visible, they become more human.

Bryan Arias is astonishing as Caliban, full of a demon's violence and caprice. His ruffled dignity, volatile moves and fast, crazed smiles make his monster come to spooky, oddly touching life. Sandra Marín Garcia's Ariel is just as potent in a more elastic, elusive way — and her conflict with Prospero, though conducted more strategically, is as deep-seated.

As lovers whose feelings for each other restore calm to a stormy world, Cindy Salgado and Jermaine Maurice Spivey are magnificent, especially in a rapturous duet where they seem never to lose nuzzling contact with each other while rolling and levitating in impossibly silken, gravity-free ways.

Pite's technical team — too numerous to name — creates 50 percent of the magic. But their special effects are used as sparingly as they are strikingly. They never overwhelm the dance.

The show is sold out, but there's a waiting list for tickets freed up at the last minute.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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