Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Tempest"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"The Tempest"

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Lesley Chapman
Live Music by Dave Dowling

Sound Design by Ben Arons
Lighting Design by Brendan Hughes
Costume Design by Heather Ritchie
Stage Manager JulieAnn Wilks

Prospero......................................Wayne Vargas
Miranda/Ariel....................................Maya Parra
Ferdinand/Master of The Ship.....Joshua Callahan
Antonio/Calaban..............................Mike O'Neil
Trinculo/Boatswain...................Shannon Keating
Stephano/Sebastian............................Tina Farrell
Alonso......................................Kara-Lynn Vaeni
Gonzalo......................................Marty Simmons


This is a "Tempest" made all of motion and of music --- not just the subtle electronic underscoring of Dave Dowling's live accompaniment, but the music of the words. All is illusion here, a rough magic that sends barefoot black-clad figures spinning across a huge circular space to switch character with a shrug of costume or a posture change. There are interpolated speeches --- Ovid and Auden --- but Director Lesley Chapman has torn Shakespeare's text down to essentials, pointed parallels, and trusted an ensemble of eight to be, in every kaleidoscopic instant, exactly what they say they are.

Chapman's approach is similar to the movement-based intensity of The Other Theatre, where some of her cast have worked before. In Heather Ritchie's baggy black uniforms what separates Miranda, Prospero's young daughter, from his servant-sprite Ariel is a wraparound skirt for one, a silver cord tied round her waist for the other. Both are Maya Parra --- yet no one will ever mistake the wide-eyed innocent lover for the impish dancing spirit.

There is a logic to seeing the scheming villain Antonio fling on a ragged cloak to become a scheming, twisted Caliban, and it matters not a whit that Alonso King of Naples and both the drunkards Trinculo and Stephano are, all three, played by women. Spun across the alchemical astrolabe of a stage, people are what they say they are --- by word, by deed, by bit of cloth or point of toe transformed. The readiness is all.

Each actor in his time plays many parts: The storm-toss't ship, wracked by sound and synthesizer storm, is built of bodies standing tall for masts; the cast becomes that enclosing pine whence Ariel was once mewed up; the cast never leave the circle of Brendan Hughes' lights, but watch the action of their fellows, or spring into it to swell a scene or torment someone with invisible taunts.

And these eight have faces! It's with their faces that Joshua Callahan and Maya Parra build the sudden love of Ferdinand and Miranda, that Kara-Lynn Vaeni mourns Alonso's loss of his son. It is his face as much as his staff that Wayne Vargas' Prospero wields to work his magic will.

There was, the night I came, one magic missing from this motion and music-swept isle. Would I could borrow Prosper's book to cram within that wooden O a host of circled watchers come to witness wonders! Then would that circle truly be complete

Love,
===Anon.


"The Tempest" (till 23 October)
THE THEATRE COOPERATIVE
The Peabody House Theatre, 277 Broadway, SOMERVILLE
1(617)625-1300 1(617)931-2000

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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