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Review: THE TEMPEST at Antaeus Theatre

The sounds of Shakespeare, Antaeus style

By: Jul. 12, 2023
Review: THE TEMPEST at Antaeus Theatre  Image
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It’s in the third act of Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST that the monster Caliban advises his would-be saviors, the drunken butler Stephano and his doltish friend Trinculo essentially to not be afraid of thing that go bump in the night, albeit with Shakespearean eloquence:  “the isle is full of noises,/Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not./ Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments/Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices/That if I then had wak’d after long sleep/Will make me sleep again.”

This beast knows whereof he speaks. With magic in the air, folks may drop off into the arms of Morpheus from time to time, but nobody in this audience will be sleeping.

I don’t know if there are a thousand, but one would be hard-pressed to find a more sound-drenched rendition of THE TEMPEST than Nike Doukas’s fanciful production for Antaeus Theatre Company at the company’s home in Glendale. JD Cullum, who plays Caliban, also plays a guitar; he supplies some of the noise, musical and otherwise. Ditto the rest of the 12-member ensemble. From the opening storm to the closing musical number, the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center is awash in buzzes, cries, whooshes, rattles and clangs. Doukas and her sound designer Jeff Gardner co-designed these marvelous foley effects with an able assist from prop designer Shen Heckel. When they’re not actively part of a scene, the company members play a hand in creating it.

And when they’re not creating sounds, they’re making (or singing) music. Pianist and vocal captain John Allee and percussionist John Harvey infuse the action with a jazzy and quite swinging score, incorporating all of the musical numbers from THE TEMPEST and – hey nonny nonny! - a few favorites imported from other plays. While the L.A. stage scene is still waiting for someone – anyone? – to produce one of Shaina Taub’s adaptations, for the time being at least, Antaeus can make the case, through their wonderful production, that THE TEMPEST is Shakespeare’s most musical play.

Angela Balogh Calin’s wide-open set is a series of tables and shelves spilling over with props, a single winding staircase that is used largely by Elinor Gunn’s Ariel. Gunn's torchy sprite fronts several of these songs, and she sings beautifully.

Microphones are everywhere, most notably a series of four tall standing vintage mics that sit center stage. Whenever characters talk either to each other, or recite a monolog, they  use these mics, either standing side by side or sharing one, and not always looking at each other. This can take a bit of getting used to, and it’s not entirely clear what the intent is. Perhaps this is how it goes on Duke Prospero’s magic island, a place where everyone is perpetually operating from within some sort of dream state.

Prospero, the weaver of these dreams is a man who can both keep the beat and touch our hearts. In Peter Van Norden’s rendition, we see a man who is kicking back at the injustice of time slipping away. He clearly loves his daughter Miranda (Anja Racic), but isn’t inclined to display rage against the creatures under his control or those who have wronged him in the past. The plot to bring usurpers to the island, to forgive his trespassers and unite his kingdom through the Miranda-Ferdinand union always feels like it is born of good will rather than vengeance-driven malevolence.

Which is not to say that Prospero doesn’t take a journey. Ariel’s fourth act question to Prospero, “Do you love me, master? No?” is met with a lengthy silence as Van Norden tries to figure out how to reply. He has spent the previous two hours learning that A. being a slave owner comes with a price and B. between the freeing of Arial and the marriage of Miranda, he’s about to lose everybody he has ever loved.

All the more reason, then, to throw an ‘o’erthrown charms” party to end all parties. Doukas and her resourceful, harmonious team know just how to swing it.

THE TEMPEST plays through July 30 at  110 E. Broadway in Glendale.

Photo of Peter Mendoza, Peter Van Norden and Anja Racić by Frank Ishman




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