Friday, July 21, 2017

THE TEMPEST at OC Shakespeare

When I first saw The Tempest performed, at the Mark Taper Forum, it featured Anthony Hopkins as Prospero and introduced a myriad of new ideas about staging.  The roiling seas vanished into the top of the mountain on the magical island!  Mr. Hopkins' mastery of the language was mesmerizing.  He brought the Bard to life.  
Clockwise from top-left: Harry Groener as Prospero; Daniel Kim as Ariel; Cora Riley as Miranda; Robert Tendy as Ferdinand
Image credit: Jordan Kubat

Entering the Shakespeare Orange County venue in Garden Grove,we are met by huge drops painted in the style of Chinese ink paintings by Dipak Gupta.  Roller coaster upstage platforms bring exciting opportunities for the movement to come. The Asian Influence is unexpected and welcome.   

Director Peter Uribe's take on The Tempest takes broad license to the story by turning to the way  Garden Grove has developed culturally over the past fifty years.  The influx of immigrants from Vietnam as well as other Asian countries brings his casting brilliantly together with local available talent.  Calling upon well known actors: Harry Groener as Prospero, Hal Landon as Gonzalo, to bring their long experience beautifully to the show works just fine.  But, the real surprises lie in Uribe's casting of dozens of Ariels and "Arielettes" who dance and fly to and fro at Prosper's magical bidding. The conceit works beautifully with Jay Lee and Daniel Kim bringing Ariel's personality to life, though the other twenty or so actors are delightful as they do their master's bidding.   

The Asian touch to The Tempest is brought amazingly to life in the banquet scene with Miock Ji's Korean Dancers.  A tribute to local culture surprises with the interval performance of Korean drumming that is astounding. 

The story of how Prospero is set adrift and lands on Caliban's island and the subsequent storm the magician  raises to capture his 'detractors' all plays out with the cast of over forty working as a finely tuned machine.  Stand out performances include Groener as Prospero, who brings his natural quality to the character, simply taking care of business: manipulating the charade.  Cora Riley (Miranda) breaks onto the scene full of energy at odds with Groener's more natural style.  Stand outs as Stephano (Tony Torrico) and Trinculo (Michael Calacino) make the most of the clowns that Shakespeare took time to expand and have some fun with. 

The creative choices made by director Uribe embrace the local culture and bring jaw dropping spectacle to the show. Every performer gives a professional performance. To the last Arielette, the actors' dedication to the play brings the audience to its feet.  Bring a pillow! And...  a sweater. 

The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare Orange County
12762 Main St.
Garden Grove, CA 92840
Dates: July 8–29, 2017
Curtain time: 8 PM
Tickets and Information: 714.590.1575

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