The storm at the beginning of Bottom's Dream Arts' production of The Tempest was a terrific piece of staging ("storm choreography" by Kristin Heruth), as the playing area became a tempest-tossed ship, and the passengers were buffeted by the wind and rain. Shakespeare's lines were not easily heard, but the sense and mood were clearly conveyed. Characters got washed theatrically "overboard," and it was easy to see how they would have been extremely grateful to set foot on land.
The rest of the play didn't live up to this imaginitive beginning, but director Rachel Russell used some excellent directorial touches to make the proceedings interesting. They mostly involved Ariel (Rachel Scott) who was variously played as seductress, temptress, seducer, spy, manipulator, and was beautifully musical as well. When she sang the lines where Ferdinand (Dominick Costello) was introduced, the magical quality of the words was intensified; when Ariel and the other sprites (Cathleen Charleson, Macy Halford, Debby Hall) were draped around the sides of the stage observing the action, the "nature" noises they made instigated action, as well as commented on it.
Some modern elements were introduced -- Miranda (Alithea Hages), who had never seen a man other than her father Prospero (David L. Greenwood), was played with a quivering awareness of her sexual attraction to Ferdinand -- her newly experienced feelings were all at the surface (as as when she was moved by the plight of those on board the ship). Prospero was plainly distressed as he realized he was losing control of his teenage daughter. (They could almost be a suburban father and daughter at the mall.)
Caliban (Guy Lancaster), usually played as the dark side of Prospero's psyche, was interpreted here as massively unhappy and needy, yet played for comedy, not sorrow. His connection to Prospero seemed tenuous, though, so their conflict wasn't well-realized.
Stephano (Victor Khodadad) and Trinculo (Christopher Sheller) were the comic scene-stealers they always are, incorporating physical humor with a well-worn familiarity. Sebastian (Lee Coleman) and Antonio (Keith Allaway) started as snide bystanders, but soon slid into villany; Gonzalo (Tom White) was played as an old windbag; the Alonzo of Demosthenes Chrysan seemed excessively distraught. Greenwood's Prospero, though, was a disappointment, not sufficiently imposing in manner or word for him to have the magical powers Shakespeare describes.
Mottled/tie dyed-like hangings (by Regina Garcia) suggested the island's desolation, and costumes (by Lydia Traill) were evocative.
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Copyright 1998 David Mackler