by Terrance Mc Arthur
The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s last major plays, and one of my favorites (I have some vague childhood memories of the 1960 TV version with Maurice Evans, Richard Burton, Lee Remick, Roddy McDowall, and Tom Poston—my first introduction to the works of William Shakespeare). This is the final production of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s tenth season.
A freak storm strands the passengers of a ship on a remote island, which is the home of Prospero (Richard Adamson), a wizard/magician who was once Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda (Bridget Manders), who has grown with no humans but her father. The castaways include Prospero’s brother Antonio, the usurping duke (Jim Gunn), and the King (Queen in this production) of Naples (Linda Hammer-Brown), who helped depose Prospero. The Queen’s son (Broderic Beard) is presumed dead, but is actually placed near Miranda, so the two will conveniently fall in love.
Prospero orchestrates all this with the help of Ariel (Joshua Taber), a spirit who was trapped in a tree by a now-dead witch. The witch’s monstrous child, Caliban (Abbygail Williams), was enslaved by Prospero after divulging the secrets of the magical island.
Adamson is majestic (even more regal than he was as WSF’s Julius Caesar) and mystical as Prospero, but some of his lines vanished on opening night. It is a difficult part, but he managed to bridge the switch from revenge-driven to forgiving very well. His patchwork-lined cloak was one of the high-points of Celeste Saldivar’s costume design, which successfully wedded modern dress to traditional Shakespearean style.
Manders was earnest and love-struck as Miranda, falling for the first human male of marrying age she saw. Beard is tall, with great hair, and he was stalwart as the prince who was similarly smitten.
Gunn (Duncan in this season’s Macbeth) was wheedling and larcenous as he plotted the Queen’s death with Lindsay Fox as Bastiana (originally Bastiano). Joshua Taber (Fleance in Macbeth) was magical as the spirit Ariel, bounding into the air. His costume of fluid, winding fabric was symbolic of how he was bound to Prospero’s service, and his freeing was a special moment.
The Caliban storyline, where the creature wants to have his way with Miranda and create a race of little Calibans, was muddied by the casting of Williams, which necessitated some line changes. Nevertheless, she made a powerful Caliban, and the galling qualities of her servitude were poignant. Robert Daniels and G. J. Thelin as Stephano and Trincula/o, Shakespeare’s blueprint for Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello, were slapstick masters, falling into ridiculous situations and carousing with a drunk-for-the-first-time monster.
Director Julie Ann Keller, owner and director of Fresno’s California Arts Academy, is adept at choreography and staging movement, and the opening shipwreck was impressive, if slightly chaotic (but when have you seen an orderly shipwreck?). Various shapes and spirits swirled and cavorted across the stage, with Kiara Actis and Rachel Mrcaich dancing as balletic embodiments of the sea and the wind. A highlight of the pre-play music was the work of Emma Ferdinandi, winner of the WSF’s Young Composer competition.
Get yourself a copy of the play (I have the complete works of Shakespeare on my phone), read it, come sit under the trees in the northern part of Woodward Park, bring a picnic meal, and have a grand old evening on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays between now and September 20. The show starts at 8 p.m., and it’s free! (Admission to the park is $5 per car). For more information, check www.woodwardshakespeare.org.
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