BWW Review: THE TEMPEST At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company Brews A Storm
For its final performances at 719 Race St., Cincinnati Shakespeare Company chose William Shakespeare's The Tempest, one of the last plays the playwright penned alone in 1610-11, Considered one of Shakespeare's greatest works. The Tempest follows a neoclassical model of the three unities of time, place and action. Opening night's weather was rainy, no doubt a precursor to the play.
Leading the cast is founding company member Nicholas Rose as magician Prospero who has landed on an island with his young daughter Miranda for twelve years after being overthrown as the Duke of Milan. Interested in regaining his dukedom, Prospero orchestrates a shipwreck amidst a storm, which open the play. Rose, who often takes such leading roles as Titus Andronicus, has strong moments throughout the play, but his best is an epilogue where he asks the audience to forgive him for his wrongdoing and let him leave the island with its applause. Rose accurately captures his portrayal of Prospero as "serene, but a bit chilly and mysterious as to just how deep it goes."
The ship struck by the storm carries Alonso, Ferdinand, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, Stephano and Trinculo on their way to Italy after the wedding of Alonso's daughter. The royal party begins to fear for their lives. They are cast ashore and separated into three groups. Miranda urges her father to help, but he has raised the tempest to face and ultimately forgive his enemies who play various roles in the production.
As the play continues to follow a plot of political intrigue, revenge and eventual forgiveness, attendees can enjoy strong performances by Geoffrey Warren Barnes II as Caliban, Prospero's deformed slave, played with attention to every gnarly move and Ariel, a spirit, skillfully played by Caitlin McWethy in her fourth CSC season with choreographed grace similar to a ballerina, but in an ethereal manner. Designed by Abbi Howson, costume shop manager, her created dress for the actors distinctly matches the characters, particularly spirit Ariel in a flowing, neutral outfit, and monster Caliban in a coordinating rugged, ruffled black top and pants.
In several comic relief scenes, Trinculo, the king's jester, portrayed by Justin McCombs and Stephano, the king's butler, played by Billy Chace, entertain the audience with their drunken maneuvers as well as a plot with Caliban to murder Prospero. Ariel, however, listens and reports the plot to her master, who eventually forgives his enemies and recovers his dukedom.
Created by Shannon Robert, scenic designer, sheets form the backdrop and surround the stage as well as part of the theater. They become waves of the storm as well as transitional elements in several scenes. Eerie, pulsating sound, effective multi-color lighting and more music than any other Shakespeare play add to the overall performance. A brief period of sound miscues marred one scene, but were corrected.
There is something for anyone in this play, which closes the 2016 - 2017 season. But, you will have to look and listen.
Co-directed by Brian Isaac Phillips, Sara Clark and Jeremy Dubin, The Tempest's dates are April 28 - May 20. Tickets are available by calling (513) 381-2273. Next year's season opens at a brand new theater at 1195 Elm St. in Over-the-Rhine with A Midsummer's Night Dream.
Photograph of Nicholas Rose as Prospero by Mikki Schaffner.