The Tempest at the Shakespeare Theatre

I must admit, I have an affinity for plays with a supernatural element, and I'm always excited to see what a director comes up with in terms of fairies, witches, anything magic.  When I heard Ethan McSweeney was directing this production of The Tempest, I knew we'd be in for something good. He did a beautiful A Midsummer Night's Dream for this company last year, which I, naturally, thoroughly enjoyed. As soon as I walked in the theatre, the backdrop of a ship drew my eye, and kept my attention thoroughly enough that I missed the large pile of sand that appeared in the middle of the stage in the next scene. Sorry for spoilers, but the play does take place on a desert island, so maybe it isn't too much of one. I was poised to dislike Miranda at the beginning, because she runs out on stage for the first time with a doll in her hand, but it does make for a really great moment later in the play and I completely forgave her. This actress was quite possibly the best Miranda I've seen; she understood the character and didn't make her at all worldly or sophisticated. You have to remember that she's only ever been in contact with two people - Prospero, her father, and Caliban, who at one point tried to rape her. When she does come in contact with her third human, Ferdinand, she's awkward and doesn't understand social cues, and to Ferdinand's credit, he just rolls with it and falls in love anyway. I was very pleased with the two of them and was happy to see them together. More spoilers!

Caliban always presents an issue. How hard do you want to hit on the colonialism issue that is rampant in this play? I wasn't sure what to do with the casting of this Caliban - is it too much of a punch in the face to cast a black man? But would be people cry white washing if they cast a white man? This is the struggle. In speaking to a friend who had some insight on this specific production, I did feel much better about the decision to cast a black man in the role. He spoke on being pleased that there were other black actors in the cast, and didn't feel that it was pushingr too hard on the issue, but was still allowing it to be heard throughout the show. I thought that was a well thought-out solution to a rough issue. 

Overall, I found this an engaging and very watchable production of what can sir times be a problematic play. There were a lot of really beautiful production elements, particularly in that crazy scene where Juno and Ceres show up for a little while. No spoilers on that! If you can make it to this show, you absolutely should, if for nothing else than Trinculo's belled shoes and striped tights. Seriously, no more spoilers!

The Tempest
directed by Ethan McSweeney
Though January 11, 2015


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