Friday, September 12, 2014

Magic! The Tempest at SCR

The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller (yes, that Teller)

It’s difficult to articulate with complete success the wonderful casting, staging and over all effect of this production. South Coast Repertory has brought drop dead professional theatre to Southern California for years and this is no exception.  Superior to every single venue that I’ve been fortunate to see theatre in, this jewel of a complex tucked away in Costa Mesa sparkles with the anticipation of the wonderfulness yet to come.  The money is on the stage!   

In the sixties when artistic directors Martin Benson and David Emmes rounded up some pals to do new theatre, South Coast Rep was a seat-of-the-pants operation.  Like all new theatre companies, store front venues and creative ideas were all they had to work with.  With the enthusiastic energies of dedicated company members Orange County beckoned Benson and Emmes.  Now, fifty years later, the success of SCR’s ability to read their audience, produce quality and exciting theatre virtually bursts at the seams.

As the audience filters in from the glittering foyer, Ariel (superior Nate Dendy), Prospero’s (Tom Nelis)  often invisible sprite, quietly builds a house of cards. Sleight of hand builds anticipation. The  magic yet to come is palpable. 

Aaron Posner and Teller’s slightly skewed retelling of the story of banished Prospero  and his lovely daughter, Miranda (lithe Charlotte Graham) evolves smoothly and creatively.   

In program notes, Teller mentions that he’s read The Tempest several times. He awakened one morning as a kid having dreamed that he was Prospero. The magician famous for his silence now ‘speaks’ in volumes  bringing The Tempest to life.

Prospero has been cheated out of his Dukedom by evil brother, Antonio (Luis Butelli).  After twelve long years stranded on an enchanted island, Prospero now seeks revenge.  The Tempest rocks the stage as Prospero and Ariel conjure the storm with a paper boat and a bowl of water.  The ship is… apparently … lost! The sailors and all survive:  dry and safe at different locations on the island: all manipulated by Prospero’s magic. 

The lovers, Miranda  and Ferdinand (goofy Joby Earle) fall immediately into passion.  Of course, Miranda, who arrived with her father on the island at the age of three has never seen another man.. unless you count Caliban and that would be a mistake.
Tom Nelis and Charlotte Graham in The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Photo: Debora Robinson/SCR

Without retelling the entire plot, a special nod must go to the choices for the role of Caliban (Zachery Eisenstat and Manelich Minniefee).  Having seen two of the best Caliban’s in Los Angeles theatre history, John Ritter at the Globe way back in the seventies and the three limbed Caliban in the 1979 Anthony Hopkins production at the Taper, Eisenstat and Minniefee’s performance must be seen to be believed.  Sycorax must still be really smarting from giving birth.

The arrival by the musicians, Trinculo (Jonathan M. Kim) and Stephano (Eric Hissom) into the presence of Caliban brings the show literally into the audience with pleasure.  Shakespeare’s clowns, when fully embraced as these are, add the exact amount of seasoning. 

Daniel Conway’s multipurpose set features Rough Magic on the upper level (A "spirit band," including a couple of chantoosies, featuring Miche Braden, Joel David, Liz Filios and Matt Spencer).
Liz Filios, Joel Davel, Matt Spencer and Miche Braden in The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Photo: Debora Robinson/SCR.
The percussionist is amazing!.  Paloma Young’s hodge podge definitive costume choices are perfect. 

The music of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan lift the production to set sail on the seas of a tour that started in Boston and have landed beautifully here at SCR.  It’s a must see and a tribute to the genius of William Shakespeare.

by William Shakespeare / adapted by Aaron Posner and Teller
South Coast Repertory Theatre
655 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Evenings and matinees through September 28, 2014
Ticket Services/Box Office: (714) 708-5555
Check website
or call the Box Office for specific
performance dates.

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