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BWW Review: David Hargreaves Stars in Shakespeare@'s Enchanting Radio Drama Production of THE TEMPEST

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The RSC veteran plays Prospero in a free 4-part series that salutes the serial broadcasts of the 1930's and '40s.

After an impressive inaugural production of HAMLET in the atmospheric surroundings of Jersey City's Grace Church Van Vorst, Artistic Director Sean Hagerty's Shakespeare@, like so many theatre companies around the country, was suddenly placed in the position rethinking its immediate future.

BWW Review:  David Hargreaves Stars in Shakespeare@'s Enchanting Radio Drama Production of THE TEMPESTSo for now Shakespeare@ is reimagining The Bard's classics as tributes to the serialized radio dramas that captivated audiences over the airwaves during the 1930s and '40s, offered for free listening at shakespeare-at.org. Since the "@" in the company's name refers to the various venues utilized in each production, this recorded series, which began with an earlier production of RICHARD II, is titled Shakespeare@Home, as home computers serve as venues for both artists and audience.

This eliminates the need for overseas travel for Royal Shakespeare Company veteran, 80-year-old David Hargreaves, to star as Prospero in what is shaping up to be an enchanting presentation of THE TEMPEST. (As only one episode of the four-part drama, adapted and directed by Hagerty, is being released per week, this review is based on Part I.)

With soft-spoken dignity, Hargreaves exudes lovely paternal grace as the displaced Duke of Milan, explaining to his daughter Miranda (courtly and mature Alice Marks) how, when she was three years old, they were exiled on a small boat from their home and were fortunate to have landed on the mysterious island they've been calling home.

Developing a newfound knowledge of sorcery, Prospero has claimed control of the grotesque Caliban (Jonathan Forbes snorting through a broad Scottish accent) and the spirit Ariel (Maria-Christina Oliveras, with spunky enthusiasm), who, at Prospero's command, has caused a frightful storm that has shipwrecked those he wishes to avenge upon the island.

As the episode comes to a close, father and daughter encounter young royal Ferdinand (Derek Wilson, with appropriate hesitancy, given the character's situation), who Miranda declares as "the third man that e'er I saw, the first that e'er I sigh'd for."

Matching the very fine acting of the ensemble is the rich soundscape of designers Dan Gerhard and Ellen Fitton of Sonic Designs, who replicate the howling dangers of the play's opening sea storm and provide evidence of human movement and the magical doings about Prospero's island. Joan Melton's pleasing music grants a merry Elizabethan mood.

With its combination of comedy, romance, revenge and fantasy, THE TEMPEST has always served as a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare, especially for young playgoers. Shakespeare@'s adaptation should provide enchantment for both Shakespeare novices and seasoned admirers seeking a bit of comfort food in these days without live performances.


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From This Author Michael Dale