Which Play Is The Most Magical?

Raise your hands if you’re familiar with the magical duo of Penn and Teller?

Prospero conjures a tempest while Ariel watches.

Now keep them up if you knew that Mr. Teller, the “quiet one” of the group, is an accomplished Shakespearean director?

A few years ago he did Macbeth, and now he’s got a production of The Tempest touring the country. I’ve seen both, and trust me – when a professional stage magician does Shakespeare, you’re gonna see some stuff. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the image of Ariel drowning Ferdinand center stage, while his father watched.  Granted a bit off book, but an amazing start to the show.

The other day I decided to Tweet to Mr. Teller asking if his Tempest would be made available on DVD (I have a copy of his Macbeth). He wrote back that he’d love to, but union rules make filming stage productions difficult and expensive.

That stinks. But! It started a conversation about what play he should do next?  The obvious choice would be Midsummer Night’s Dream if you’re going for the “plenty of magical stuff to play with” angle.  But if you’ve ever seen Penn and Teller’s work, they do prefer to go dark. As in, open The Tempest by actually drowning Ferdinand even when you don’t have to.  There’s not a lot of blood in Tempest (none, really), but that’s why he did Macbeth first :). So a Dream from Teller would be more like a nightmare.  A crazy awesome nightmare.

I suggested Richard III, which seemed to have a good combination of ghosts and gore. Hamlet and Julius Caesar would be two other pretty logical choices as well.

What other plays might lend themselves well to the magical treatment? Obviously we’re picking all the easy ones where Shakespeare added a magical element, but that doesn’t have to be the case. What about a magical King Lear? I’m thinking specifically about him hallucinating at the end, but as I type that I realize it’s a bit too Jean Valjean from Les Mis.

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