Neither truly comedy, nor tragedy (no one dies), Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” plays out as a romantic drama with a backstory of evil deeds. It has a complex plot that includes treachery, cruelty, usurpation and unjust exile. The magician Prospero (keenly played by David Graham), a mage of great learning and power and his daughter, Miranda (a svelte Kathryn Farren), have been stranded on an island for a dozen years. Overthrown by his brother Antonio (Alastair James Murden) with the connivance of Queen Alonza (Kristina Teves), Prospero and his then three-year old daughter were abandoned on a derelict ship with the expectation that they would die. However, secretly supplied with fine clothes, treasured books and other “stuffs and necessities” by the loyal Gonzalo (noble Mitchell McCollum), they drifted to an island where the pair made a life for themselves with only the rescued spirit Ariel (splendid Dorian Tayler) and the malevolent subhuman Caliban (richly energetic Patrick Vest) to aid and serve them.
Prospero, divining that his enemies are in a ship passing nearby, raises a violent storm, the tempest of the title, that wrecks the vessel and makes the entire ship’s compliment castaways on his island. He separates and manipulates the new castaways as they reveal themselves for who they really are.
When Alonza’s amiable son Ferdinand (magnetic Brant Rotnem) wanders lost on the island and encounters beautiful Miranda, he is gobsmack-smitten with the deepest of true love. She, having never seen another human being other than her father, responds in kind. The plots thicken when Antonio schemes with Alonza’s brother, Sebastian (Garrett Replogle), to overthrow the Queen. Comic relief comes in the form of two drunken clowns, court jester Trinculo (Bryson (B.J.) Allman) and butler Stephano (Ryan Knight), who lure Caliban into their debauchery to form a comic trio.
“The Tempest” requires a great deal of exposition to keep the action in motion. The cast for the most part does this very well save for a few scenes in which, perhaps due to the outdoor venue with its incumbent distractions and sound problems, tend to lag. And Prospero’s beloved epilog that I always love hearing…did I just miss it or has it been cut?
The show is smartly directly by Stephanie Coltrin with many clever touches that take maximum advantage of Aaron Jackson’s excellent scenic design. The opening shipwreck scene is terrific with choreographed motion conveying the turbulence of the storm. Pre-show and intermission music creates a fine mood and other sound effects like enhanced voices add to the magic. Costumes by Christa Armendariz are delightful and Miranda’s blue gown is gorgeous.
There is nothing like summer Shakespeare and Shakespeare by the Sea has been providing free outdoor Shakespeare since 1998. Their season is winding down, but there are still performances to be seen. “The Tempest” and “As You Like It” will be performed at the locations below: