Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Tempest"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"The Tempest"

by William Shakespeare
Directed and Designed by James P. Byrne

Lighting Design by Russell Swift
Costume Design by Robin McLaughlin
Production Stage Manager Bradley Ball

Trinculo...........................Mimi Jo Katano
Stephano........................Bobbie Steinbach
Caliban................................Robert Saoud
Prospera...................................Jane Staab
Ferdinand........................Michael Buckley
Miranda.........................Catherine Epstein
King of Naples...................Neil Gustafson
Sebastian...................Julian M. Broughton
Antonio........................................Ed Peed
Gonzala..................................Jacqui Parker
Francesca..............................Grace Napier
Boatswain............................Matthew Ellis
Ariels
Tania Asnes, Rachel Cole, Alison Dempsey, Janelle Dempsey, Yahanna Faith, Julianne Gale, Rishabh Iyer, Christina Kwan, Rafael Moses, Nia Murrell, Jake O'Hara, Ian Poole, Connor Sheils, Lauren Staniunas
Water Sprites
Emily Bache, Gregory K. Chase, LaMar Delandro, Alden Dilanni-Morton, Amanda Jane Gallagher, Emma Gillespie, Emma Haritos, Suzanna Hirsch, Jonathan Jaffee-Anechiarico, Mariel Nunes, Andrew Wesley Oppenheimer, Courtney Perkins, Samantha Pilgrim, Sarah Pollack, Monica Rabadjija, Jenna Spencer, Jessica Elizabeth Pieroni Teicher, Adena Walker, Sam Zimman


The good but sad news is that Mimi Jo Katano is doing brilliant work in her farewell appearance on a Boston stage. And if that name is unfamiliar, you should go, NOW, to the Wheelock Family Theatre to see Katano playing Trinculo (a jester), Bobbie Steinbach playing Stephano (a drunken butler) and Robert Saoud playing Caliban (a ... fish?) steal "The Tempest" right out from under Jane Staab's Prospera in James P. Byrne's inventive production of Shakespeare's farewell play.

Katano's undulating eyes and twinkling fingers, her slow pratfalls and round-mouthed takes, and her impeccable timing are all definitely needed to help hold her own in this trio of classic knockabout buffoons. Steinbach in pasted chin-whiskers and squashed hat is a tipsy Blackbeard wielding a bottle of sack as deftly as a rapier, while Saoud is the ultimate schlimazel always flatly sat on. These two "brand name" Boston performers are all but unrecognizable in their makeup --- save for the unmistakable stamp of their wholehearted artistry. What a tour-de-force trio of performances!

Of course, it's easier to make slapstick rather than plot or poetry work for audiences so widely mixed in ages, but James P. Byrne has included a delight for every level of spectator. Take his set for instance, that breaks up the unplayably-wide three-level Wheelock stage with undulating waves and whitecaps mimicking "the bulge and nuzzle of the sea." And that allows him to put near a double dozen Water Sprites in blue, all topped with foam-white caps into play, and to have fourteen Ariels pop, like sea-spume, out over the tops of dunes keeping his ocean continually tempestuous.

With these clowns and all those kids, the story of Prospera's magical revenges on her usurping brother (Ed Peed) and the brother (Julian M. Broughton) of the duped King of Naples (Neil Gustafson), the loyalty of Gonzala (Jacqui Parker) and Francesca (Grace Napier), and the magically swift love of Prince Ferdinand (Michael Buckley) for Prospera's daughter Miranda (Catherine Epstein) all fade into a sort of second level of reality. Robin McLaughlin's opulent costumes and their noble bearing keep these "grown-ups" solidly inside the intrigues of an European court though they find themselves shipwrecked in the sandy shore of Prospera's isle.

Outlined against the storm-tossed skyline stands the mighty wizard Prospera, puppet-mistress of all she surveys. Jane Staab is indeed a commanding figure, stalking through her magical landscape, pricking Buckley's Ferdinand with invisible chains, unleashing her many Ariels, chastising her grumpy Caliban. But she is at her best down-center at the end, in her farewell to magic and her gentle epilogue. It is perhaps James P. Byrne's magic as director that is most at work here, but it is Staab's mastery over her theatre that illuminates these final moments.

Love,
===Anon.


"The Tempest" (till 9 May)
WHEELOCK FAMILY THEATRE
200 The Riverway, BOSTON
1(617)879-2147

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