BWW Reviews: Shakespeare Enchants Door County at THE TEMPEST
In Björklunden's lush garden situated in Bailey's Harbor, Wisconsin, Door Shakespeare conjures the Bard's classic tales with sophisticated simplicity. Each Saturday, the company presents both plays from their 2016 season so theatergoers may enjoy each selection in one night, with other individual performance scheduled throughout the week, planned perfectly by Artistic Director Amy J. Ludwigsen. When 5:00 p.m arrives, Shakespeare's The Tempest opens and begins high atop a balcony surrounding an age old tree with a trunk too immense to imagine, designed by Aaron Kopec This lofty perch transforms into the railings of a ship's deck-- the ship destroyed in the fierce storm Prospero conjures with his magic to send his enemies onto his island and into his power.
Thrown from the ship, the royal crew and their staff, which includes the Duke of Naples, his sister, and Prospero's sister (in this version a sister instead of a brother), are washed ashore on Prospero's island untouched with the help of Ariel, a mercuriall spirit "of air." Prospero, his daughter Miranda, and a witch's son Caliban have lived in remote exhile, a contented life of humiity, since Prospero was disposed from his Dukedom in Milan.
With these several characters, Shakespeare delights his audience with a tale of a comic drunken crew, political treachery and true love, situations placed under the power of Prospero's magical staff. On staff at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, for another summer Leda Hoffman returns to Door Shakespeare to direct The Tempest with a sharp eye towards uncovering each character's human qualities, whether actually human or mystical, so her choices clarify the production's humor, poetry and story and a keen humanity shines from within each cast member.
The experienced Mark Corkins portrays a commanding and majestic Prospero who spins his magic with a turn of his staff on his daughter Miranda and her future husband Ferdinand along with the other castaways on the ship. The fierce tenderness he displays for Miranda, an innocent yet confident Grayson Heyl, warms to the instantaneous attraction between the Prince of Naples, Ferdinand, a devoted Andrew Carlyle, and his daughter, the princess of Milan. The audience actually believes in the father-daughter relationship and that Ferdinand is only one of three men Miranda has ever seen when she falls in love at first sight.
In the difficult role of the captured, malformed Caliban, Jonathan Wainwright exudes his foul personality through movement and voice alone, physically demanding, without extraneous costumes, which again allows Calian's humanity to be exposed instead of the monster others believe him to be. Combined with Steven Lee Johnson's superb Ariel who excels at obeying his master Prospero, both fleet of foot and tongue while minimally dressed in a vest, shorts, and black fingerless gloves--A spirit surely ready to be set free, Johnson's Ariel plays his mischief at Prospero's bidding with assured gifts.
For audience members, investing in Shakspeare's magic depends on believing in these characters' lives and the audeince completely does when Björklunden's forests surround and the "noises sound, and sweet airs...dreaming,..and clouds show riches dropped .." as this accomplished cast and ensemble sings or plays music at significant moments in the play. An especially comic moment in the production occurs when the King's butler and jester, played by Joe Boersma and Chirs Peltier, along with Wainwright's Caliban, sing in drunken revelry. Laughter runs through their treachery, while these three also plot to overthrow the Duke. Perhaps that is why when Prospero puts aside his personal magic, the audience again believes him when he says, "The rarer action is in virtue, rather than vengenance."
Prospero forgives Caliban, his sister and enemies while remaining true to his promise that he will grace Ariel with freedom. More importantly, when Miranda discovers she is a princess and will become Queen of Naples, surrounded by her new family, she exclaims, "How beauteous is humanity..O what a brave new world!"
While Miranda may have little experience with humanity, and eventually encounter some disappointments, she offers her future hopes in these words. This may be one reason audiences frequently return to The Tempest, thought to be one of Shakespeare's last plays. They, too, can then believe in what Miranda has seen: virtue will rise above vegenance, promises might be honored, humanity will somehow demonstrate beauty instead of ugliness, and love can be honorable and true. Over all these centuries, audiences would welcome remembering these hopes and dreams for humankind. To this uplifting end, Door Shakespeare delivers an effortless, enchanting, and magical Tempest, timelessly powerful in the telling.
Door Shakespeare presents The Tempest at Björklunden in Bailey's Harbor through August 15. For information, special events including Pre-Show Discussions, Family Nights, Shakespeare Study Groups. or the Annual Gala A At Thousand Times Goodnight on August 2 and tickets please call: 920.839.1500 or www.doorshakespeare.com