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This review by Joan Crespi was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 21,

1999. All rights reserved.

Review: `The Tempest’

The Tempest" is, of Shakespeare’s plays, the most

unusual. As Shakespeare’s last independent play, probably written

in 1611, five years before his death in 1616 at 52, it could be looked

to for the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime — a lifetime that

included "Macbeth," "Hamlet," "King Lear,"

and "Romeo and Juliet."

The play, a comedy, is also Shakespeare’s only play that is magical

throughout. It’s almost like a fairy tale. And while Shakespeare wasn’t

one to observe the Aristotelian unities, here’s unity of time, the

action of the play all occurs in just over three hours. Except for

the realistic first scene on the storm-tossed ship, the play is set

on an enchanted isle. It’s also unique in the Shakespeare canon because

it is the only play that is written wholly for the out-of-doors. Appropriately,

it is being performed on the Hun School’s outdoor terrace weekends

through July 31 by Westwind Repertory Company, the fine acting company

now beginning its fifth season.

The play has many plot elements that Shakespeare used in previous

plays: a shipwreck ("Twelfth Night"), a displaced ruler driven

into exile by a brother ("As You Like it"), a young, nubile

female relative (here "Miranda,"), romance, reconciliation

of enemies, an airy sprite, Ariel, (akin to the fairies in "Midsummer

Night’s Dream"), and some bumbling, realistic low comedy (almost

a Shakespeare trademark).

To this add that son-of-a-witch and the devil, the half-human slave,

Caliban. Add Prospero, master of revels, ruler, sorcerer, and magician

on this enchanted isle (even the storm of the title is his creation:

his enemies are sailing nearby; they’re shipwrecked and Ariel brings

them all, magically unharmed, onto the island). Put in compassion,

forgiveness, the righting of wrongs, love-struck children of enemies,

and some exquisite poetry, and you approach "The Tempest."

It’s considered one of the most beautiful of Shakespeare’s plays:

its ending — here played with passion, amazement, delight, and

fine timing — never fails to move.

Staged on a bare, wide terrace, with almost no props, acting is all.

This production, ably directed by Julia Ohm and Dale Simon, soon takes

life and becomes — like its setting, the sometime spell-binding

sleep of its characters, and its intermittent music — enchanting.

While there is occasional confusion as to who’s who,

and women play three men’s roles, the principals are immediately obvious.

Prospero, the rightful duke of Milan, lost his dukedom by devoting

himself to his books while a perfidious brother usurped his dukedom

and banished him. Impressively played by Doug Kline, Prospero is,

by turns, loving, angry, passionate, tender, and forgiving. As his

chaste, sheltered daughter Miranda, Lori Rolinski is soft-spoken and

delicate and wholly captures the girl’s sweetness and bashful innocence.

Janet Quartarone is admirable — lightfooted, nimble, swift, and

rapt — as Ariel, the sprite who does Prospero’s bidding but who

seeks, and finally wins, freedom.

Curtis Kaine is convincing as Prospero’s brother, Antonio, ursurping

duke of Milan. With Sebastian (Mark Moede) he schemes to murder Alonso,

King of Naples and Prospero’s enemy, in one subplot, but Ariel sees,

and Alonso awakes. Todd Lewis is a noble, grief-stricken Alonso, who

fears his son Ferdinand is drowned but is finally overcome with joy

as Ferdinand, well played by John P. Dowgin, appears — not only

alive but betrothed to Miranda. (A "Romeo and Juliet" gone

right?)

Caliban, surly, brutish, squatting, but not deformed and fish-like

as written, is energetically played by M.A. Young. In another subplot,

here shadowing the main plot, he would make the drunken Stefano king

of the island. Stefano (Joel McGlynn) and Trinculo (Barbara Hatch)

do a roistering bit of low comedy.

Brian Bara designed the play’s convincing thunder and rain.

What is Shakespeare’s wisdom of a lifetime? It’s in Prospero’s famous

speech in Act IV. Although spoken after a masque of spirits Prospero

conjures up to show off his skill, it caps the playwright’s business:

"Our revels now are ended. These our actors,/As I foretold you,

were all spirits and/Are melted into air, into thin air." And

it’s Shakespeare’s final reflection on the human condition: "We

are such stuff/As dreams are made on, and our little life/Is rounded

with a sleep."

— Joan Crespi

The Tempest, Westwind Repertory, Hun School, Edgerstoune

Road, 609-737-8924. Open-air performances Fridays, Saturdays, and

Sundays, to July 31. $12.


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