Director Jon Tracy has delightfully set The Tempest in a steampunk inspired Victorian land of imagination. Prospero’s cell does not evoke ceremonial magic ala Dr. Faustus but rather the laboratory of mad Dr. Frankenstein. The magic here is the magic of electricity and science, not demons. But the magic, happily, is intact and the vision is successfully realized.
Robert Parsons’ Prospero is not a powerful magician, but a frightened, angry, socially inept science nerd more at ease with his mechanical devices than he is with any human being. His Ariel is not evoked by prayerful gestures or chants, but is plugged in to some sort of electrical device and moves mechanically. Perhaps I should say Ariels (plural) as Ariel here is manifested as several mechanical seeming creatures who speak simultaneously in hauntingly effective fashion. This is all very difficult to describe but a pleasure to see and hear.
Caliban (Michael Torres) is described in the program as an “indigenous scientist”. The idea is that Propero’s control over Caliban is a matter of superior technology. This is not entirely clear or convincing as it plays out on stage, but for the joy of this visually thrilling production, one is happily willing to suspend disbelief. Mr. Torres’ Caliban is full of confused poetry, passion and ambition, as he should be.
Prospero and Caliban are (rightly) the centerpiece of the production, along with the extraordinary Ariel performed as an ensemble by Silvia Girardi, Maro Guevara, Kimberly Miller, Nesbyth Rieman, Erika Salazar and Jeremy Vik. They are all excellent.
The supporting cast does a fine job of moving the story along and keeping things clear.
As a treat for the senses, this production is a marvelous success. Where it disappoints, however, is in the character of Prospero who seems to fail to reach the profound transformation of spirit that Shakespeare wrote. This Prospero does not seem to be the sort of man who can speak the line, “We are such things as dreams are made of…” with full significance. The emotional and spiritual heart of the play is given short shrift here, and the great cathartic, transforming power of deep forgiveness and surrender is not communicated.
But I quibble. On its visually thrilling terms, the production is a hands-down winner and I recommend that you attend.
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The Tempest. Producer: Lesley Schisgall Currier for Marin Shakespeare. Director: Jon Tracy. Custome Design: Abra Berman. Lighting Design: Abra Berman. Magic Consultant: Ellen Brooks. Properties and Set Decor: Christian Congigal. Set Design: Joel and Toni Eis. Sound Design / Composer: Nina Ball. Stage Manager: Sabrina Kniffin. Assistant Stage Manager: Jessica Lauren. Assistant to the Director: Janne Barkis.
Prospero: Robert Parsons. Caliban: Michael Torres. Miranda: Sarah Gold. Gonzalo: Christopher Hammond. Sebastian: George Maguire. Antonio: Alex Hersler. Trincula: Lynne Soffer. Stephano: Cassidy Brown. Qualities (Ariel): Silvia Girardi, Maro Guevara, Kimberly Miller, Nesbyth Rieman, Erika Salazar, Jeremy Vik