BWW Reviews: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S THE TEMPEST Combines Enchantment and the Wonder of First Love
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S THE TEMPEST, the last of his romantic comedies, was written in 1610 and published in 1623. This great romantic comedy has it all: danger, intrigue, politics, revenge, a mighty sorcerer, and his beautiful daughter who falls deeply in love at first sight with the handsome prince who is so conveniently shipwrecked near her island home. THE TEMPEST still exerts an influence over popular culture four centuries later, ranging from "Forbidden Planet" to "Gilligan's Island" to "Lost."
This new production of WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S THE TEMPEST now onstage at T.U. Studios, directed by Gloria Gifford, is a blend of Shakespeare's original text and excerpts from John Crowther's rendering of the work in contemporary English ("No Fear Shakespeare: The Tempest," Barnes & Noble, 2003). And with all the asides to the audience, along with more contemporary language, those less familiar with Shakespeare may find this production a good introduction to the Bard.
However, please be forewarned this is a very LOUD presentation in a very small space. From the title music to the ear-piercing shrieks of characters confronting mysterious creatures, I found the volume distracting and bothersome, with many of the actors seeming to just scream their lines rather than effectively assuming their characters and projecting more naturally.
There are exceptions of course, with several actors keeping it real, as much as anything can be called real on this mysterious island. The captivating Lucy Walsh (in a gold lamé body suit) flits and dances her way across the stage as Ariel, an airy Sprite who like Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, loves causing mischief among human lost in her world. Watching her joyfully sprinkle fairy dust (aka lots of glitter) as she casts spells truly brought the real spirit of fantasy to the play.
Lauren Plaxco takes on the challenging role of the 15-year old, naïve and pure Miranda, daughter of the island's sorcerer Prospero (Robert May, unfortunately a bit too non-emotional Shakes-Speak in his delivery). But Plaxco inhabits the giddy teen, overwhelmed with emotion when she first meets and is wooed by the handsome prince Ferdinand (gorgeously handsome Chad Doreck), stranded on the island after surviving a shipwreck. Plaxco and Doreck dazzled in last year's FOOL FOR LOVE, and again display the same kind of intensity and deep connection to each other that seems so natural for them. The heat these two generate when they flirt, kiss, and roll around the floor together will sweep you up into the enchantment of first love in all its glory.
Caliban, the subhuman son of the malevolent witch, Sycorax, is a deformed monster and the original island inhabitant. He taught Prospero how to survive on the island, while Prospero and Miranda taught Caliban religion and their own language and now serves Prospero and Miranda (who he loves) as their servant. Francis Lansang gives Caliban many simian qualities, covering himself in green paint and hair, but effectively quieting down and cooing each time he thinks about Miranda. But Caliban's first love is unrequited once Ferdinand arrives.
In some of the most comical scenes in the play, Caliban is swayed to switch his allegiance away from Prospero over a large barrel of wine provided by the ship's drunken butler Stephano (Justin Truesdale) and the jester Trinculo (Alex Miller). How a jester, complete in rainbow sparkled vest, came to be on this island is yet another mystery! But since Alonso (Jeff Hamasaki Brown), the King of Naples and enemy of Prospero, was on the ill-fated ship, no doubt these two comedians were his servants.
With several roles double cast, THE TEMPEST company of actors includes: Akeda Abrams, Jeff Brown, Cody Bruno, Billy Budinich, Leana Chavez, Haile D'Alan, Otari Daneliya, Chad Doreck, Glenn Fancher, Joshua Lee Farmer, Kevin Ferris, Chris Jones, Abigail Kochunas, Francis Lansang, Christian Maltez, Robert May, Alex Miller, Lauren Plaxco, Kasia Pilewicz, Cynthia San Luis, Justin Truesdale, Keith Walker, Lucy Walsh, Jade Warner and Sabrina Won.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S THE TEMPEST (with additional material from "No Fear Shakespeare: The Tempest" adaptation by John Crowther), directed by Gloria Gifford, and produced by Jade Warner, Lauren Plaxco and Chad Doreck for Jamaica Moon Productions and the Gloria Gifford Conservatory, continues through August 24 on Sat. at 8:00pm, Sun. at 7:30pm, at T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91602. ADMISSION: $20. RESERVATIONS: (310) 366-5505. ONLINE TICKETING: www.tix.com
Chad Doreck, Lauren Plaxco
Sabrina Won (l.), Akeda Abrams, Cynthia SanLuis, Jade Warner, Chad Doreck, Lauren Plaxco, Kasia Pilewicz, Abigail Kochunas