Stage magic

The Tempest

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Emily Webster Tetzlaff
The Oberon Theatre Ensemble
The Producers Club
358 W. 44th St. (560-2241)
Equity showcase (closes May 20)
Review by Julie Halpern

Ah, such stuff as dreams are made on... The talented scenic artists at the Oberon Ensemble have truly outdone themselves, with production values a Broadway house would be proud of. It is a particularly noteworthy achievement considering the limited space and lighting capacity in the Producers Club.

Shakespeare's mature masterpiece has all the elements of a fairytale: beautiful young lovers, evil usurpers, and an idyllic, unspecified island locale (Shakespeare was supposedly influenced by the real event of a shipwreck off Bermuda). A young girl and her father are reading The Tempest as a bedtime story. No sooner does the girl drop off to sleep then the play's shipwrecked denizens materialize in her bedroom. Her father, garbed in a purple, feathered cape, assumes the role of Prospero.

It wasn't all glitz and glimmer either. Director Emily Tetzlaff assembled a cast of attractive, engaging players, who with a few exceptions were very much at home with Shakespeare's text.

Gordon Stanley was a youthful, handsome, physically powerful Prospero, effortlessly moving from the role of magician to that of a loving father. Lily Burd made an auspicious New York debut as the young daughter, in a focused, economic performance. She held her own in her scenes with Stanley, and showed herself to be a fine dancer-with an excellent grasp of Shakespearean language in a second role as the goddess Iris. Laurelle Rethke was a fiery, sensual Ariel, whose exquisite movement was truly ethereal. Her haunting mezzo singing voice was a joy, but her performance was compromised by a surprisingly nasal speaking voice. Nyle Lynn Caisley was a lovely, spirited Miranda, but seemed a bit uncomfortable with the language. Likewise, the very appealling David L. Townsend as Ferdinand stumbled with the text as well.

Brad Fryman as Alonso, King of Naples, was an extremely likable, noble presence. Matt Shale turned in a brilliantly disturbing portrait of the evil Antonio. His portrayal was enhanced by some wonderful violin playing. Roland Johnson was delightfully loquacious as the philosophy-spouting Gonzalo, and David Willis was a compelling, handsome Sebastian.

William Laney played the deformed Caliban with an earthy simplicity- a creature of nature rather than an evil presence, creating more levels than usually seen with this character. Jennifer R. Terrell as Trincula and Barbara Jones as Stephana contributed some outrageously bawdy moments, and later were very glamorous as Ceres and Juno.

Lighting designer David M. Kronick, set designer Kevin Joseph Roach, and set stylist Carrena Lucas are to be congratulated on their collaborative vision. Ross Merced's diaphanous costumes added even more magic to the evening.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 Julie Halpern