Review: Shakespeare & Company presents a delightful production of ‘The Tempest’ in their new outdoor theatre
Shakespeare and Company presents William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ in their new outdoor Roman Garden Theatre, located in the Shakespeare Garden adjacent to the Tina Packer Playhouse. Directed by Allyn Burrows, the Company’s newly appointed Artistic Director, it is the story of Prospero, a betrayed duke and magician, who is fixated on justice and revenge until he sees, through his daughter, the power of love and forgiveness. This play touches on many themes including envy, betrayal, redemption, forgiveness, freedom and love. Shakespeare’s writing beautifully encompasses the human spirit and the resiliency and ever-changing emotional and mental states of his characters.
All performances of this play are performed in-the-round at dusk and it is the perfect fit for the new, intimate outdoor venue. The atmosphere is woodsy with ample natural lighting. The set includes ropes that hang over the stage and above the heads of the audience. Well placed sails hang over one section of the audience to decrease some of the glare of the setting sun while also hinting at the storm that swells and wreaks a ship at the start of the play. The wooden stage is cut with jagged edges and is surrounded by large rocks, sand, shells and beach grass. The set, designed by Jim Youngerman, features multiple levels and locations throughout the space for the actors to utilize and fully immerse the audience in the world of this island and its inhabitants and visitors. The added musical elements and creative magical moments were unexpected, but enjoyed. They added humor, lightness and intrigue to the overall performance.
Taking on one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, Prospero is veteran actor Nigel Gore. He was commanding of the stage, and performed a believable and tender father-daughter relationship with Miranda, played by Ella Loudon. Gore has a fantastic grasp of the Shakespearian language and he seemed very comfortable in his character. Loudon, as Miranda, was innocent with youthful esperance. She was fully invested in her character and never broke from her character, staying fully present in each scene as it took place. She was very natural, with a sweet, yet strong demeanor. In an early scene where Miranda lashes out at Prospero’s savage servant Caliban, Loudon was boomingly infuriated. She exhibited fiery power and anger that once the scene was over we didn’t see come out of her again. It was a very powerful and riveting moment.
Caliban, the savage son of the witch Sycorax, was born on the island and cared for by Prospero and Miranda. He was perfectly portrayed by Jason Asprey who, in detailed costume and make-up, gave a horrifying, but at times humorous performance of the servant monster. He fully embodied his characters’ voice, physicality and quirks while also showing various emotional sides of his character. He didn’t just play the monstrous qualities; he portrayed a multi-faceted character, who experiences a variety of emotions, thoughts, impulses and temptations. His portrayal was impeccably well done and one of the strongest performances I’ve seen this summer.
A few stand-out scenes during the production include the multiple drinking scenes involving Stephano (Josh Aaron McCabe), Trinculo (Bella Merlin) and Caliban (Jason Asprey). Each was very funny with superb physical comedy elements and characterizations by the trio. The audience couldn’t help but smile and laugh aloud during most of the time this group was on stage. Another scene was when Ferdinand was carrying logs for Prospero, and Miranda joins him and easily takes the logs from him and adds them to the pile for him. Their interaction was full of sweet, falling in love moments that were performed genuinely by Deaon Griffin-Pressley, as Ferdinand, and Ella Loudon, as Miranda. The pair had wonderful chemistry. It was easy to believe they were falling love in at first sight and becoming completely infatuated with one another.
The cast is rounded out by a number of other Company favorites including Tamara Hickey as the airy sprite Ariel who is impatiently awaiting her freedom from serving Prospero. Thomas Brazzle as Sebastian, the brother to Alonso, King of Naples played by Josh Aaron McCabe who also played Stephano, and Mark Zeisler who played Prospero’s brother Antonio.
Shakespeare’s language is so melodic, that though you may not understand each word and phrase that is spoken you can understand the sentiment that’s there through the actor’s passionate portrayals and their wonderful story-telling ability. This play was very well done and I was captivated from start to finish. Looking around at the other audience members, it was clear they too were enthralled by these characters and the world they had brought us in to. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the production giving it an enthusiastic standing ovation. This show was definitely worth the long drive and traffic I experienced to attend and I encourage any Shakespeare lovers within a 3 hour drive to go see this production.©
‘The Tempest’ plays through September 3rd at the Shakespeare & Company campus located at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox, Massachusetts. Tickets and more information about this play as well as Shakespeare & Company’s full season can be found at www.shakespeare.org or by calling the box office at 413-637-3353.
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Promo Photo credit: Courtesy Shakespeare & Company.