The Tempest at The Smith Center Review by Andrea Dupper
“How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in’t!” And what a brave new world this stunning adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest invites you into. Shakespeare’s final play has been given a magical and triumphant new life at The Smith Center.
Directed by Teller and award winning playwright and director, Aaron Posner, the complexity of The Tempest could easily be lost as the many layers unravel, instead Posner and Teller stage every movement with such precision that each relationship is made more clear and the actors are able to convey the deeper underlying story.
Daniel Conway’s set, built like a majestic shipwrecked royal court recreates a barren circus and is nothing short of enchanting. From the moment you sit down, you’re wrapped up in this bewitching tale. On one deck, a ghostly band of gypsies, the band, Rough Magic. (Miche Braden, Michael Brun, Shaina Taub and Nate Tucker) led by two soulful and bewitching beauties performs original songs of bluesy haunting melodies written by Tom Wait.
The audience is introduced to Ariel, (Nate Dandy) Prospero’s spirit servant while waiting for the play to start. This naughty spirit plays tricks on unsuspecting patrons. As the band makes its way to the deck, a hush comes over the audience and we are magically transformed to a royal ship in the midst of a terrible storm at sea. A storm caused by Prospero, (Tom Nelis) his first act of revenge, as he steals away Prince Ferdinand. Unlike any other adaptation, Teller’s Prospero performs astounding acts of illusion on stage that will make you truly believe he is a powerful enchanter. Prospero is a complicated soul, driven by revenge, seeking forgiveness and finally a man just trying to do right.
When Prospero’s daughter Miranda (Charlotte Graham) falls in love with the prince Ferdinand (Joby Earle), their infatuation is giddy to watch. Caliban, Prospero’s dark, earthy slave, frequently referred to as a monster by the other characters is portrayed by Zach Eisenstat and Manelich Minniefee, contortionists from the Pilobolus dance company; conjoined at all times to create this son of a witch hag, rolling, jumping and carrying each other across the stage. When Caliban convinces the drunken Trinculo (Jonathan M. Kim) and Stephano (Eric Hissom) to kill Prospero and the two torsos of the monster each stroke and caress a different person, it’s unsettling in the best possible way.
Defiant and mysterious, the spirit servant Ariel plays with the audience as he plays with his victims, but even after working the whole play for his freedom, his final, almost regretful look at Prospero points to whole novels of emotional territory. Louis Butelli as Antonio delivers a searing grief that mirrors the hot fire of revenge that burns in Prospero.
This epic tale of love, loss, virtue and vengeance will leave you with a haunted heart and begging for more.
See The Tempest in a tiered 500-seat, climate-controlled tent in Donald W. Reynolds Symphony Park, where no seat is farther than 60 feet from the stage. April 1-27, 2014
TICKET PRICES: $35-$75