Life’s a beach
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Judith Jarosz
Equity Showcase (through
Review by Michael D. Jackson
Director Judith Jarosz has directed a slimmed down version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, dropping the opening storm scene to begin with the entrance of Prospero and Miranda. A sense of the storm scene is nicely evoked as an insert during Prospero’s description of the event. Although the dropping of the storm scene robs us of an explosive and dramatically exciting opening, it does allow the story to launch a bit faster and this is welcome.
The mighty figure of the play is Prospero, displaced as the Duke of Milan by his brother Antonio and abandoned at sea with his daughter Miranda. Prospero has educated himself into the ways of a sorcerer and has caused a tempest to shipwreck his enemies as they happened to pass by. These enemies, including his brother, are now wandering about the island, frightened by the potential dangers, while Prospero looks over them, gleeful of his revenge. This general set-up allows for a young romance of the “love at first sight” variety; for a couple of comic buffoons who run into a deformed creature, Caliban; to infuse an inactive plot with a few laughs; and a quartet of Royals who find themselves perplexed by mild mishaps. The Tempest seems like it should be more attractive than it is, with magical dancing spirits, sorcery, the storm sequence and a happy ending for all. However, Theatre Ten Ten’s production is simple and performed without any flourishes, perhaps not so far off from how the first productions might have been presented. However, without taking advantage of all that could be done with a play about a magical world, a lot of the potential fun of the play is lacking. This is a little like Peter Pan without the flying. So, then, this writer dares to criticize Shakespeare’s play for being dull overall, but there you have it: so much the better that the long winded text has been edited down.
A lot of the responsibility for making the play really work is the performance of the actor playing Prospero, for he has lengthy speeches in his first scene that describe a lot of back story. Prospero must be a beguiling presence that can command our attention and make us hang on his every word. Unfortunately, David Fuller as Prospero is not that magic person; although he adopts a commanding stance, reads his lines with a booming voice and gestures with wide arms conducting unseen miracles, he does not rule the play as he must. Kendall Rileigh as Ariel also has a number of long descriptive speeches and for all her ballet and tumbling about to give the impression of a nymph, she does not illuminate the text. More successful are the other sub characters, even the two-dimensional lovers (Ka-Ling Cheung and Greg Foro), who make their scenes clear and believable. Especially good is Scott Michael Morales, who gives the really fun performance of the production as Caliban, the half monster/half fish who comically terrorizes the drunken Trinculo (Anne Gill) and Stephano (David Weinheimer). The three have some entertaining comic business that liven things up, but these days it takes quite a brilliant comic talent to make drunken humor more than mildly amusing and here the device is tiresome. As the Royals, Catherine Handy, Matt Bernhard and Richard Brundage apply their talents suitably, but there isn’t a lot there to make them feel valuable. Although, Sybille Bruun as Gonzala, councilor to the Queen, manages and interesting character that rises above the rest of the group.
Design elements were all very basic with Giles Hogya and David Fuller’s myriad of square platforms standing in for the environs of the island and Sherrice Kelly’s helpful lighting adding some mood and ambiance to the pallet. However, Viviane Galloway’s costume design distinguishes the production, setting it in a resemblance of the 19th century, but with a whimsy that befits a magical story. Judith Jarosz has directed a simple production and although unified and sprinkled with delightful moments, it does not radiate the magical powers the story suggests.
Copyright 2008 by Michael D. Jackson
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