I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, among the first official audiences to see all 6 plays of the 2013 season. Yesterday, I posted a review of King John. Today, I'm going to review The Tempest.
Like most people, I'm much more familiar with The Tempest than with King John. I read Tempest in an undergrad Shakespeare class and have studied it and read it for fun several times since. I first saw the play performed live in 2001 at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where the set was fantastic and where David Ivers was the most definitive Caliban ever, in my humble opinion. I saw it again in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago, a steampunk production of it, wherein Prospero was more of a scientist than a magician, and Ariel was an automaton. (Naturally, I really liked that version.)
So, the 2013 Tempest was my 3rd live version, and, I must say, it was well worth the ticket price.
The Tempest was one of Shakespeare's last plays, and it was something of his bidding farewell to his audiences. It may be classed as either a comedy (in the sense that it has no death and the love matches work out) or a romance. It is a play about Prospero, the Duke of Milan, whose brother has usurped his power and set him adrift with his 3-year-old daughter in a boat. The boat arrives at an island inhabited only by spirits and fairies and the half-human/half-monster Caliban. For 12 years, Prospero has ruled the island, but, as the play begins, a boat carrying his brother and the King of Naples and his son Ferdinand passes near the island. With the help of the fairy Ariel, Prospero makes the boat appear to crash, and he spends the day/play making his brother "pay" for what he has done while making Ferdinand fall in love with his (Prospero's) daughter, Miranda, thus assuring her a good future.
In the Festival's 2013 production, Prospero is indeed the star. In some productions, he is not a strong character, and the audience ends up caring more about the lovers or the humorous drunks. But in this production, Henry Woronicz is a compelling, powerful, and slightly sexy Prospero who takes a back seat to no one. Part of this success stems from the fact that he's not made up to look like Merlin/Gandalf/Dumbledore for a change.
Melinda Parrett, always a fantastic actor, plays Ariel, with eerie, whitish contact lenses:
Because Melinda has such a beautiful voice, the director makes the most of it, and her songs to Prospero and the others are wonderful.
Caliban is strong, too (even though I still prefer David Ivers' version). Played by the African-American Corey Jones, he has a bit of the Caribbean to him, and there's even a fun little reggae-style song with "Ban-Ban-Caliban" that delights the audience.
The set is another strong point to this production. The actual storm scene is really well-done, and there are magic tricks aplenty, with Ariel's having light-up thumbs and Prospero's doing a bit of levitation.
Overall, this is a great production of The Tempest. It's accessible to Shakespeare newbies but fresh enough to enthrall even the well-seasoned playgoers.
If you can afford to see only one play at the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City this year, The Tempest is the one to see.
All photos used in this post are official Festival photos. More can be found at the Festival website, bard.org.