“The Tempest” – Not so much a storm as a light breeze

Shakespeare masterpiece The Tempest, covers a wide range of emotional territory in the course of its three hour run, and contains elements of many of the Bard’s most iconic works. Within it lies the same quest for revenge as Hamlet, the same young lovers from two worlds as Romeo and Juliet, the same slapstick and wordplay as Much Ado About Nothing. But within its prose, The Tempest also offers a well concealed farewell from Shakespeare himself; many historians believe it was the last play he wrote alone, and critics have drawn parallels between Prospero’s magic and Shakespeare’s stage craft, as well as compared Prospero’s final speech to Shakespeare’s own resignation from the Globe. At the end of each performance, the audience is privy to the touching farewell not only of a beloved character, but also the greatest playwright that ever lived.

A testament to Shakespeare’s genius, the play is poignant, hilarious, tragic, romantic, bawdy, and heartfelt all at the same time. Around the Globe Theatre Company’s production stays true to this brilliant text, but the performance is rather low energy and long.

Though it contains several interlocking plots, The Tempest is primarily the story of Prospero (Tony Porter), the once duke of Milan whose throne was usurped by his brother Antonio (Mike Brown). Twelve years later, Prospero is living in banishment on a magical island with his daughter Miranda (JJ Peeler), plotting revenge against those who wronged him. With the help of his spirit slave Ariel, (JayC Stoddard), Prospero uses his magic to conjure a tempest that wrecks the ship of the king of Naples upon the island, a ship that carries those who stole his throne and power. His enemies wrecked and at his mercy, Prospero embarks on a journey to take back what was lost and reconcile with those who wronged him.

While the Around the Globe Theatre Company’s performance of Shakespeare’s last great play stays incredibly true to the original text, the performance itself leaves something to be desired. Though it is clear that the director, Beth Bruner, has a solid understanding of the intricacies of Shakespeare’s writing (especially the stage directions cleverly written into the lines), and that all the actors have impressive command of the language, the performance sagged with a lack of energy and an incredibly slow pace. Uncut Shakespeare is an ambitious goal for any modern theatre company, and Around the Globe’s production did not move at a pace quick enough to hold the audience’s attention through the entirety. Many of the actors seemed to be coasting – few seemed to be putting much effort into their performances. The production as a whole lacked focus, pace, and energy.

Standouts from the cast included Tony Porter’s Prospero. Mr. Porter delivered a well played and believable arc as a man who begins on a quest for revenge and ends up finding redemption. He held the audience’s attention well through some lengthy soliloquies, and had a beautiful command of the language. Andrew Maizner delivered an honest performance as the eternally optimistic Gonzalo, and Mike Brown effectively portrayed the duality of Antonio. However, the cast member that shined the most in this rather lack luster production was Megan Valerie Tholen as one of Prospero’s spirits. Though she lacked any lines, her lithe movements, strong singing voice, and intense gaze were captivating. She was engaged and present in every moment she appeared, even if she was simply moving a set piece, and every eye was upon her every time she graced the stage. Ms. Tholen’s performance was nothing short of show stealing.

Ms. Bruner’s staging made effective use of the small stage of the Midvale Main St. Theatre. The various levels were effectively incorporated to make the acting space seem larger than it truly was. The show’s use of music was also very effective, and enhanced the magical element of the island. Shakespeare’s lyrics were set to original music by Jacob Bruner that helped carry the story. However, this music was often used to cover up the long, cumbersome set changes, which stretched for far too long and were done by only three actors who obviously struggled with the massive and wobbly tree trunks that comprised the majority of the set (designed by Corie Sorensen and Jacob Bruner). The set changes all stretched for far too long, and the audience often lost the story during their length.

The costumes, designed by Ms. Bruner, were overall effective, if a bit amateur. While the three fairies looked excellent in their colorful bodysuits and Miranda’s green flowing dress fit her character well, a few others seemed to be wearing rather half hearted and cheaply made attempts to look a part of the era. The makeup and hair design (JC Carter) was much more effective. Other than a few cases of flowing locks obscuring the actor’s faces, the hair and makeup characterized each actor very well. Jacob Bruner’s lighting design further enhanced the production, as well as a few interesting special effects, such as Prospero’s magic book flaming.

Overall, Around the Globe’s production of The Tempest is lengthy and lackluster, but it is always refreshing to see a community theatre production of Shakespeare where all involved have a solid command of the difficult text. The hefty admission price ($12-$15) may be a bit too much to ask for such a production, but it is important to support the classics – and companies like Around the Globe who are devoted to them – in a modern world where they are increasingly forgotten.

The Tempest runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from now until July 30th at 7 pm at the Midvale Main Street Theatre, tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and children. For more information, visit http://www.midvaletheatre.com/The-Tempest.html 

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3 Responses to “The Tempest” – Not so much a storm as a light breeze

  1. Pioneer Theatre Company – $62

    Hale Center Theatre – $26

    Plan B Theatre Company – $20

    Pinnacle Acting Company – $15

    ATG’s “hefty admission price” – $15 ($12 for seniors and students)

  2. Briana Shipley says:

    This review is spot-on. The actors definitely knew what they were saying, but the show dragged like a dead horse. Hard to sit through.

  3. Pingback: Our Revels Now Are Ended… « AtG News

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