Review: THE TEMPEST at Southwest Shakespeare Company

Playing at the Mesa Arts Center through March 19, 2022

By: Mar. 03, 2022

Review: THE TEMPEST at Southwest Shakespeare Company

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare's shortest plays, but it is not short on action, magic, or intrigue. A shipwreck maroons a group of aristocrats on a remote island, by design of Prospero, the former Duke of Milan whose Dukedom was usurped by his brother, Antonio. Prospero escaped with his daughter, Miranda, to the island and uses magic to draw his brother to the island to exact his revenge. This play is fun and exciting and the perfect return to the Mesa Arts Center for the Southwest Shakespeare Company.

As Prospero, Keath Hall, works the stage and his costumes. There is a cloak he wears that is mesmerizing. Hall is a commanding presence and his booming voice fills the auditorium. It is difficult to understand Prospero's intentions, but I think Hall means to keep the audience in suspense. This makes the denouement all the more satisfying. Hall is fantastic actor and worthy protagonist.

While Ariel is commonly played by a male actor, in this production, Ariel is played by Bonnie Beus Romney and the play is better for it. Ariel is a spirit and uses magic to perform the will of her master, Prospero. She follows his instructions to the letter and ensures his plans are carried out. Romney is energetic and graceful. She also has a lovely singing voice. Romney and Hall have a natural chemistry that strengthens the play and the entire cast. The two share a lot of stage time and it is clear Romney and Hall share a mutual respect for their craft and passion for this play.

As Prospero's daughter, Miranda, Christina McSheffrey is confident, loving, and funny. She delivers her lines with surety and brings joy to the stage. Her interactions with her father in the beginning scenes are amusing and her scenes with Ferdinand make me believe in true love. It is so nice to see actors that work well together.

Mace Archer plays Antonio. It does not take Antonio long to stir up trouble once on the island. Archer has a quiet, but powerful presence. It is clear through Archer's characterization of Antonio how Prospero was thwarted.

Ferdinand is the son of the king and it is believed he has drowned in the shipwreck. Prospero purposefully had Ariel land Ferdinand on another part of the island to ensure the King and his cohorts would feel the pain of losing something dear to them. Played by Spencer Beckwith, Ferdinand is gentle and easy to love. Beckwith allows Ferdinand to be sure of himself, while also letting him be stricken powerless by his immediate love for Miranda.

Jim Coates often graces the stage for Southwest Shakespeare and he is a welcome sight. As Gonzalo, the King's confidant and former servant of Prospero, Coates makes his lines so easy to understand with his use of inflection and tone. He is a professional through and through.

As Caliban, the son of Sycorax, the witch who imprisoned Ariel, Ben Harris has a great physicality. The prosthetics he wears on his face and hands could have prohibited his movements, but Harris does not allow this to slow him down or prevent him from using his whole body to tell Caliban's story. Caliban is rightly frustrated by his servitude to Prospero and is determined to rid himself of his captor.

The King of Naples, Alonso, is played by Joshua Murphy. Alonso spends most of the play mourning the death of his son, Ferdinand. He does not realize that his brother, being influenced by Antonio, is willing to kill him to take his throne. Murphy is regal and dignified. He quickly gains the favor of the audience which makes the betrayal of Sebastian all the more upsetting.

Sebastian, Alonso's brother, is played to sinister perfection by Angel Lopez. Lopez walks with surety. He gives his character confidence and arrogance that is befitting a villain. His chemistry with Antonio is electric. Together, they taunt Gonzalo and conspire to gain power. Their connection is familial which allows the audience to forgive them their trespasses.

As Adrian, a Lord in the King's court, Nathan Gayan plays the character with a wide-eyed innocence. Adrian is along for the ride and does not see the inherent danger lurking on the island. He also seems impervious to the despair the king is feeling. Gayan plays his part well and brings an innocence to the character that perhaps serves to keep the evil at bay.

As the power-hungry opportunist Stephano, Eric Banks is a delight. For most of the time Stephano is on stage, he is drunk, but Banks has a crispness in his speech that helps the audience understand Stephano's motivation and how he manages to enchant Caliban and become the almost leader of the island.

Tim Shawver plays the jester, Trinculo. He has the best facial expressions and physicality. As the jester, Trinculo is responsible for bringing the laughter and Shawver nails it. Shawver uses his time on stage to his advantage and draws your attention even when he is not at the center of the action because of the choices he makes on stage.

This cast is marvelous. No matter who is on the stage, there is chemistry, excitement, and respect. The four Goddesses played by Elizabeth Broeder, Bronwyn Elizabeth, Rita Liegl, and Megan Lindsay round out the cast. The Goddesses appear to assist Ariel in her work and create an air of mystery that permeates the island. Magic is real and these Goddesses prove it. They also grace us with their beautiful singing. The music plays an important role in this play and the music composed by Treasure fits the show perfectly.

Dennita Sewell has coordinated an incredible array of costumes. The magical costumes are sparkly and ethereal, the aristocrats are impeccably dressed, and the long-term residents of the island look flowy and tattered. The costumes are impressive. The hair and makeup design by Juliana Jackson is equally as remarkable. All of the Goddesses have gravity-defying hairdos. The whole cast looks phenomenal.

How To Get Tickets

Directed by Ingrid Sonnichsen, The Tempest runs through March 19 at the Mesa Arts Center. Shakespeare's comedies always have a happy ending and I promise you will leave the theatre feeling cheerful. Buy your tickets HERE.

The Creative/Production Team

Tom Holmberg - Scenic Designer

Peter Bish - Sound Designer

Bret G. Reese - Lighting Designer

Beau Heckman - Props Designer

Keath Hall - Fight Choreographer

Treasure Treasure - Composer

Stacey Walston - Director of Production

Kate Weir - Production Stage Manager/LBO

Emmy Antillion - Asst. Stage Manager/SBO

Dylan Prentis - Asst. Stage Manager

Angela Kabasan - Production Assistant

Photo Credit: Southwest Shakespeare Company


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