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Review: Winding Road's 'Rough Magic'


The cast of Winding Road’s production of “Rough Magic” clearly loved what it was doing and let the story shine through.

Expectations were not high for “Rough Magic.”

A take on the “Tempest” written by a comic book geek who brought us “Afterlife with Archie” and wrote episodes of “Glee”?

How could this be anything but … weird?

Well, Winding Road Theatre Ensemble’s production of “Rough Magic” by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is weird. And wonderful.

On Friday’s opening night, from the first moment to the end, the laughter rolled easily and attention never wavered.

The story

It must be hard for Aguirre-Sacasa to live in his head. He has a whacked-out imagination mixed with a dark and incisive humor. In “Rough Magic,” he pulls from Shakespeare, Greek mythology, superhero comic books and a whole slew of other universes. Shakespeare’s revenge-ridden Prospero from “The Tempest” is on the warpath: his son, Caliban, has stolen Prospero’s book of magic and headed off to present-day Manhattan. Prospero sends his other children, Ariel and Sasia, off to hunt Caliban down and get that book, no matter the cost.

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Meanwhile, Caliban meets up with Melanie, a dramaturge who knows a bit of magic herself, though she’s rusty at it. Caliban begs for her help. He gets it from her, as well as from a teenage lifeguard who is smitten with her, and a Fury who has escaped Greek mythology to settle in Manhattan. Unspeakable things happen — fires over the city, amputations of feet, bad lip-syncing. It is an outrageous hoot.

The acting

Some of the performances were more rough than magical, but it’s hard to care much about imperfections. The story shines through and these actors clearly loved what they were doing.

Cyndi LaFrese had a firm hold on the character of Melanie. David Alexander Johnston‘s Prospero was terrifying and vindictive and heartless. Andrew Gray was limber, almost balletic, in his portrayal of Caliban. Roger Owen let out his inner goofball; Steve Wood was over-the-top ridiculous as the Fury Tisiphone, who survives in this dimension as a drag queen; Albert Riesgo was the perfect clueless lifeguard; Melanie Kersey shaped a delicate Miranda; Robbie Sanchez gave distinction to all three of his roles, and Kathryn Kotz‘s Linda, a teacher who was almost scary in her disapproval of her student’s lack of interest. Eddie Diaz (Ariel) and Bree Boyd (Sasa) showed glee in their roles as villains.


Susan Arnold was faced with a daunting challenge: take a big concept, stage it on a small space, give a sense of special effects without the use of special effects, make the skipping between two time zones and many different scenes clear. She met that challenge with creativity and humor.

The set

A big reason Arnold was able to suggest so many different scenes was because of Glen Bucey’s wildly clever set. A very big (oh, about 7-feet tall, we’d say) open book sits center stage. Actors come out and flip a page to denote the scene painted on the page. It was a kind of masterful.

Contact Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128. On Twitter: @kallenstar

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Kathleen has covered the arts for the Star for 20 years. Previously, she covered business, news and features for the Tucson Citizen. A near-native of Tucson, she is continually amazed about the Old Pueblo's arts scene and feels lucky to be covering it.

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