New York | 2h 45m | Already closed

The Tempest (Public)

From 25 critic and 28 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Entertaining, Slow, Disappointing, Great staging

About the show

Part of the Public Theater's free Shakespeare in the Park, Sam Waterston stars in 'The Tempest,' The Bard’s classic tale of young love, old enemies and the eternal magic of storytelling. More…

Exiled to a fantastical island, Prospero unleashes a churning storm to shipwreck the traitor brother who stole his throne so he can settle the score once and for all. But bitter revenge is upended by newfound love in this sublime masterpiece that proves we are all “such stuff as dreams are made on.”

2h 45m | Already closed | The Delacorte Theatre (Upper W Side)

The New York Times

"This 'Tempest' is always lovely to behold and often illuminating. Don’t expect the stormy passions that can move an audience to tearful wonder...Moments of captivating pageantry arrive often enough to distract you from this production’s lack of dramatic urgency...Caliban says at one point, 'sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.” That’s a pretty good description of the sum effect of this softly seductive production." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"To see 'The Tempest' acted under a night sky is like hearing 'The Messiah' sung in a cathedral. Whatever the flaws of the production, the sheer rightness of the setting usually makes them forgettable, or at least ignorable, and you come away thinking only of the work...I didn’t agree with all of Mr. Greif’s choices, but I was glad to go along with them, and by evening’s end my cavils felt picayune: Nothing mattered but the truth and beauty of the play itself." Full Review


"The first of this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park productions is restrained and straight-to-the point, but there are moments of whimsy that give 'The Tempest' its boom, thunder and roar. Considering that this is a play with magic as a big theme, director Michael Greif has gone surprisingly straightforward and stylized...The theatrics lifted me enough that I wished there had been more." Full Review

USA Today

"This 'Tempest' is notable for its delicacy and gentle whimsy, and for emphasizing the play's romantic spirit...The most memorable moments in this lovely, if subdued, 'Tempest' are played straight. When Waterston delivers the famous line, 'The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance,' his straightforward urgency is gripping. It's a quiet kind of magic, but potent nonetheless." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"'The Tempest' is full of pleasures both auditory and visual. There is a fabulous supporting cast who turn into a chorus of heavenly sirens. There is a terrifying, winged monster created through simple set pieces and vocal manipulation. With just the subtlest of suggestions, Shakespeare’s mysterious, fantastical island comes to life." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"What resonates most here are Prospero’s relationships with his supernatural servitors and his startling choice to change revenge for forgiveness, oppression for liberty. The production finds strength in this clemency. That ought to be enough and yet it isn’t. Or maybe it is. When all the stories and characters at last combine there’s a deficiency of heft, pathos and alchemy...Even an imperfect 'Tempest' is reasonably enchanting." Full Review


"Greif opens his relatively straightforward production with a splendid storm of crashing thunder, flashing lightning, and sailors swinging precariously on ship rigging. It's a thrilling prologue to the events that follow...But the magic is lost in the final act, which glides the play into port so slowly that by the time wands are broken and harnesses removed, we're eager to get ashore." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Though director Michael Greif’s production of The Tempest is pleasant enough, neither is it particularly noteworthy. Yes, we venture with the players to this faraway and mysterious island; yes, we come to realize that even in a new world with infinite possibilities we will continue to encounter good and evil, for they are the essence of human nature; and yes, we agree, when all is said and done, that forgiveness and reconciliation is vital in a society." Full Review


"Waterston at first projects a pitiable weariness...Director Michael Greif's episodic approach at times feels as choppy as the seas, while other scenes are seamlessly harmonious. Artful soloists help Prospero express his joy at finding love for his daughter -- his tempest tamed." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Greif has otherwise done well by 'The Tempest', his take being utterly unadventurous but thoroughly respectable...There are no breakout performances, merely a militia of chess pieces of similarly high strength...Chalk it up to yet another interesting, unexplored possibility in this 'Tempest', which, is satisfied and satisfying working at the highest levels of the commonplace" Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"While it is most definitely not a dud, it is not a rip roaring attention grabber either...This is a difficult play. The entire premise rests on the shoulders of Prospero .While Sam Waterston is game, he never quite hits the needed mark. In addition he appears more focused on his words than spinning a tale of poetry and charm." Full Review


"The rest of Michal Greif’s production is merely mundane, from hodge-podge costumes, uninspired seascape setting to the mixed bag of acting styles that are the mark of most Central Park Shakespeare productions, sometimes winningly so, sometimes, as here, not...I wish there were more humor in the production; even the comic relief Shakespeare provides with the jester Trinculo and the drunken sailor Stephano seemed to be running on low batteries." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"The simple, effective staging only accentuates the location’s natural beauty...Cirque-esque elements lend a modern touch, and though the majority of the costumes are de rigeur, the two slaves’ bondage-evoking harnesses provide a frisson of excitement...Still, these positives aren’t enough to distract from the production’s hollow center, and even with all of the turmoil, it ends up as more of a light shower than a 'Tempest'." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"This 'Tempest' feels strangely marooned, thanks to a series of hit-or-miss casting and design choices...In a production that often seems to be searching for a style and point of view, the presence of a great actor in his element proves to be the most magical component of all." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"The current production is more a squall than a tempest; it tells the story smoothly and efficiently, but only sporadically captures the magical atmosphere this wondrous play requires...Mr. Greif's staging is generally uninspired. A significant problem is his failure to come up with ways to gets his actors, especially the ensemble members, off the stage efficiently...While only occasionally satisfying, is nonetheless a suitable introduction to the play." Full Review

New Jersey Newsroom

"Without a strong Prospero to anchor the play, the production merely drifts along...The supporting players are underwhelming. During the second act, director Greif jazzes up staging by circus-like business involving dancing nymphs and spirits. It’s pretty and provides some relief from the desultory doings that make this revival of 'The Tempest' so mediocre." Full Review

New York Theater

"It is hard to avoid a tinge of disappointment. This 'Tempest' seems a tad tepid...The performances are not often more than competent...The production picks up in liveliness as the story progresses, with the nice addition of music, but it never quite makes up for the turgid first half. Still, 'The Tempest' is worth seeing." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Shakespeare in the Park has been so solidly enjoyable in recent summers that it’s sad to find one’s mind wandering in boredom, or eyes glazing over at a banal set. Such is the case at Michael Greif’s glossy, static, weakly interpreted 'Tempest', a late romance that offers a director the chance to conjure equal parts magic and melancholy. Instead of either, we get half-baked visuals and Sam Waterston as a vaguely rabbinical exiled duke-turned-wizard Prospero, whose enchanted cloak resembles a... Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"This production flits and darts around the vast outdoor stage, with sea-wave panel backdrops, in search of something coherent or at least interestingly chaotic...Sexual tensions are at a minimum...As the evening went on I found myself less and less interested in any consummation." Full Review

New York Post

"Shakespeare in the Park is nothing if not wildly uneven. So it goes with the Public Theater’s latest, 'The Tempest,' in which some of the acting is inventive and unexpected, and some is utterly mediocre. Unfortunately, Sam Waterston’s Prospero falls into the latter camp...After an underwhelming storm, there’s a beautiful bit of stage wizardry involving Ariel. It’s a little late, but at least it leaves you believing in magic." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Stale choices sap 'The Tempest’s' power...Shakespeare’s uncanny investigation of love and freedom, and the way they are often both conjoined and opposed, cannot strike home unless an audience is at the same time elevated, even thrilled, by what it sees and hears...Perhaps, as is often the case, the company just needed more rehearsal and the designers a bigger budget. Still, we should not excuse too much. Prospero, matchmaking for Ariel, explains that he must make the wooing difficult 'lest t... Full Review

AM New York

"A disappointing start with an ineffective, drawn-out, unusually cheap-looking production of the Bard's romantic drama 'The Tempest', led by Sam Waterston as Prospero...The acting ranges from decent to overblown and puzzling." Full Review

The Fifth Wall

"The summer’s 'Tempest' in Central Park is a let-down. Plot and sense is subsumed under stage business and emotional telegraphy. The actors’ stylized, almost syncopated versifying is consistent in method but also includes a tendency to over-emote without communicating sense. The characterizations are also generic." Full Review


"'The Tempest' and Central Park were made for each other, so it must have taken a Herculean effort to drain Shakespeare’s most mysterious play of all its magic. Despite some thunderous sound-and-light effects, this plodding production lacks the power of enchantment...Everything about this earthbound production is presented in such literal terms that even the lyricism of the language is dashed upon the rocks and left to drown." Full Review

New York Daily News

"It’s impossible to reconcile with this stubbornly unengaging staging in a production filled with missed opportunities and out-of-synch moments. And it’s too bad, because the production starts with promise...Yes the show is free. But it’s also a reminder that bad shows happen to good actors, good directors and deserving audiences. But when all is said and done, this is a 'Tempest' that should be tossed." Full Review

Ambitious, Enchanting, Great acting, Great staging, Refreshing

See it if You are a Shakespeare fan and love original staging and interpretation.

Don't see it if You are not a fan of spare productions.

Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You love Shakespeare and enjoy Public Theatre productions

Don't see it if You don't care for Shakespeare and find following the multiple characters and busy dialogue tedious

Entertaining, Disappointing, Great acting, Great writing, Masterful

See it if you love Shakespeare! I thought the entire cast was wonderful, except for (sadly) Sam Waterston, who did some weird line readings.

Don't see it if you hate Shakespeare and outdoor theatre.

Great staging, Slow, Great acting

See it if you like your Shakespeare under the stars. The supporting cast was outstanding.

Don't see it if you want something brisk.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow, Problematic, Absorbing

See it if You love any and all Shakespeare

Don't see it if colonialist overtones make you uncomfortable. You don't like Shakespeare.

Disappointing, Fluffy, Insipid, Indulgent, Entertaining

See it if You love Sam Waterston's acting. You haven't seen a really good production of The Tempest like the one starring Christopher Plummer.

Don't see it if You are a fan of The Tempest, and have seen good productions of this play. Waterston was so BORING! The whole production was lackluster.

Entertaining, Slow, Great acting, Confusing, Great singing

See it if you enjoy Shakespeare or are a fan of the fantastic actors who play the leading roles.

Don't see it if you fall asleep at the thought of Shakespeare because you will most definitely fall asleep.

Entertaining, Outdoor theater, Disappointing

See it if As Prospero, Sam Waterston (TV's Law&Order) seems like a good choice. Sadly, he thought he was Polonius (from Hamlet) & lacked the magic.

Don't see it if If U don't like rapid weather changes or risking the threat of a rainout then beware outdoor theater. Skip if standing in line 4 tix grates?

Ambitious, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You've never seen the Tempest

Don't see it if You need revenge

Slow, Great writing, Great acting, Great staging, Disappointing

See it if you want to see a Shakespeare staple & enjoy watching interesting characters.

Don't see it if you expect a quality performance by Sam Waterston or are unfamiliar with Shakespeare or even more particularly, this specific plot.

Great acting, Great staging, Quirky, Overrated

See it if You like Shakespeare and it's free.

Don't see it if you haven't read/seen the play beforehand to have a full understanding of what's going on.

See charming "mobile unit" version at the public rather than this overwrought one

See it if this is one of Will's must see plays

Don't see it if steps on all of Will's great lines

Also I have seen some extraordinary Tempests including a recent production ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Overrated, Over acted, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if love Shakespeare and outdoors theater.

Don't see it if you like classically acted Shakespeare.

Great acting, Slow, Banal, Disappointing

See it if you like classic Shakespeare plays that do not push boundaries or modernize Shakespeare, or if you have read the play

Don't see it if you have not read the play or are unfamiliar with much of Shakespeare's work, as it is quite dense

Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if you'd like a lovely night under the stars in Central Park.

Don't see it if you find Shakespeare a little dull unless it's done really, really well.

Great staging, Disappointing, Slow

See it if You like Shakespeare and want to attend a fun outdoor theater event.

Don't see it if You're not a fan of Shakespeare. He's not my cup of tea, but some productions are still able to hold my attention; this isn't one.

Disappointing, Slow, Boring!, Tedious, Lack of urgency in this show

See it if you enjoy watching (not well produced) Shakespeare in Central Park; live music worked will with the script; JTF was a standout

Don't see it if you've seen TEMPEST done well previously; you expect to see good direction; overall, actors were underutilized by lack of poor direction

Cliched, Confusing, Excruciating, Overrated, Slow

See it if you really have nothing better to do. And you want to get drunk in the park and laugh at how bad this is.

Don't see it if you have little time to see a good show. or you have options to see pretty much anything else.

Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated, Slow, Lifeless

See it if you've ever seen a great shakespeare production--otherwise you might never try another. JTF great in comic relief, the only bright spot.

Don't see it if you've ever seen a great shakespeare production--it will seem that much worse by comparison. Lifeless. Dead. Supposed to be the TEMPEST!

Entertaining, Great acting, Quirky, Clever

See it if you love Shakespeare.

Don't see it if you don't like Shakespeare.

Banal, Confusing, Slow, Great staging

See it if A fan of the shakespeare play, a chance to see shakespeare in the park

Don't see it if without going into the show without some basic knowledge of the topic

Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining, Exquisite, Riveting

See it if You love good art.

Don't see it if You don't love good art.

Delightful, Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Must see

See it if you want something fantastical and mystical and funny and cool. See it if you want to ponder the concept of the "other" and class relations

Don't see it if you don't like the genre of fantasy or Shakespeare.


See it if You love shakesoeare

Don't see it if You don't love shakespeare

Enchanting, Entertaining, Clever, Delightful

See it if If your a fan of Shakespeare this is the show for you!

Don't see it if If you are prone to seasickness and find island life tiresome.

Cast & Creatives

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