Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Tempest -- Seattle Shakespeare Company

The Tempest
Seattle Shakespeare Company
June 4-28, 2009
Tickets and Information

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s later plays—many believe it to be his last—and the themes of forgiveness, the hope of the next generation, and the cycle of life are all ripe for inspiration and interpretation. Seattle Shakespeare Company and director George Mount have created a Tempest set in a dreamscape, slightly filtered through the sorcerer Prospero’s own memory and mind, as he brings all of his friends and enemies together to his enchanted isle for revenge, and ultimately reconciliation.

Michael Winters as Prospero. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

SSC has talked up their casting of Michael Winters as Prospero, and he does not disappoint, bringing a gravity and quiet discovery to the role that humanizes the sorcerer. Hana Lass brings a sideways sensibility to the role of Ariel, her appropriate but slightly odd reactions reminding us that this creature, however elegant, is not at all human. As the comic denizens of the isle, Kerry Ryan as Trinculo, Eric Ray Anderson as Stephano, and Peter Dylan O’Connor as Caliban form the perfect off-kilter trio, blundering their way drunkenly with spot-on comic timing. The rest of the cast also serve their characters well; from the conniving lords of Italy to the innocent young lovers, there is not a weak link in the entire ensemble.

The design for this production is striking, and guides the audience easily into the dream-like world of the play. The set designer, L.B. Morse, seems to open the small theater out and backwards, and strings the stage with sailing tackle, masts and ropes hanging at the edges of the playing space—which some actors make full use of, climbing and swinging. Roberta Russell’s lights play across the blue and white shades of the set, creating soft pools of warmer tones or harsh flashes of stormy reds, and L.B. Morse’s occasional projections on the back wall of the set add to confusion or to the spirits’ magic. Doris Black’s costumes referenced Victoriana, Steampunk, and a little Cabaret style, nevertheless creating a cohesive and striking world.

Hana Lass as Ariel. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

The sound design (Robertson Witmer) and music (Jesse Sykes and Phil Wandscher) became an integral part of the production, showcasing the magic that Prospero and Ariel wove around the visitors to the isle. Sykes and Wandscher composed original music for this particular production, and their haunting melodies and simple guitar lines, paired with Ariel (Hana Lass)’s smooth voice, made for an otherworldly effect.

George Mount succeeded in bringing together this particular concept, the considerable talents of the cast, and the beautiful designs into a cohesive and spectacular whole; every person involved in every element embraced their tasks, and the play, wholeheartedly. That commitment, and the talent to back it up, shines through in this retelling of a tempestuous story.

Review by Kenna Kettrick & Kacey Shiflet

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