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Get swept away with The Tempest
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Get swept away with The Tempest

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Tempest
Seattle Shakespeare Company
Through June 28


A Duke gets booted from Naples, lands on an island with his daughter, basically having been set adrift to die. His friend, however, supplies him with enough food and water and books, one of which supplies information on magic. A witch lands there, deposits her son and dies. Some years later, the King of Naples, and his son, get washed ashore there after a (magical) storm, where the Prince and Duke's daughter fall in love. That's the basis of Shakespeare's The Tempest, one of Shakespeare's last plays, being produced by Seattle Shakespeare Company.

There's a bit more to the story, but that's the very basic plot. However, the mood and atmosphere of the play are all magic. Seattle Shakespeare's production gets the magic front and center, and director George Mount pulls out all the humor he can, which is a great relief for this complicated little play. The key character, the Duke Prospero, is played by one of Seattle's best, Michael Winters. His experience doing Shakespeare plays is evident, though some of Shakespeare's monologues about "life" are still fairly unintelligible. Winters has the command of the Duke and magic. He shows the wisdom of age in his ability to forgive the King and his own brother in their betrayals of the past. We are both relieved for him and let down when he gives up the magic at the end, to return to Naples and enjoy regular life with his daughter and new son-in-law.

A large part of the magic is Prospero's slave sprite, Ariel, played with beautiful petulance by Hana Lass, whose spritely mind keeps forgetting that Prospero actually saved her from forever trapped inside a tree log. When promised her freedom, she performs Prospero's bidding in his last revenge against the King. The witch's son, Caliban, is called a monster over and over, and is introduced as having tried to rape Miranda, the daughter. This is, of course, very evil, though Caliban seems to want to have continued in Prospero's love. The role is inhabited by Peter Dylan O'Connor, who transforms his look into a very spooky and tortured soul, helped by makeup and costumes of Doris Black.

The heart of the humor is in two of the ship's rascals, Stephano (Eric Ray Anderson) and Tinculo (Kerry Ryan), with whom Caliban teams up to overthrow Prospero, and whom Caliban convinces they could rule the island. Anderson, Ryan and O'Connor play drunken conspirators with gusto. Visual jokes, a small pile of blanket over a flailing Trinculo and Caliban, which gets Stephano to talk about a monster with four legs and two heads, is commedia at its peak.

The rest of the roles are well done: Miranda (Carolyn Marie Monroe) with sweet adolescent gawkiness, Gonzalo (James Dean) as a caring friend, Ferdinand (Jeffrey Frieders) the roving-eyed Prince who tumbles for Miranda, Sebastian (Richard Nguyen Sloniker) and Antonio (Todd Licea) who conspire to kill the King, and King Alonzo (Bradley Goodwill).

Original music is composed by Jesse Sykes and Phil Wandscher, sung simply by Hana Lass, helping her create the magic she wields. Set design by L.B. Morse provides a bleak but effective island look. Lighting by Roberta Russell and sound by Robertson Witmer support the production well. Choreography is kept simple and sweet by Jennifer Havlin. Apparently, due to economic cutbacks, their rehearsal time to pull this all together was shortened. It doesn't show on stage.

For more information, go to www.seattleshakespeare.org or call 206-733-8222.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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