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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: September ::
CSF The Tempest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1600  Thursday, 23 September 1999.

From:           W. L. Godshalk
Sent:           Tuesday, September 21, 1999 1:33 PM
Subject:        CSF The Tempest

The Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival's production of The Tempest,
directed by Jasson Minadakis, opened on September 16 and runs until
October 10.  The costuming is eclectic. At the back of the stage is a
central, curtained door (i.e., Prospero's cell), flanked by two low
parallel walls at right angles to the rear of the stage.  Above is a
platform upon which Prospero stands when he is observing and directing
the action, and from which Ariel frequently exits the stage.

There is a pre-play dumb show as the sailors (in yellow slickers) hang
white sails at the rear of the stage and the royal party comes on board
as from a wedding.  As the ship leaves port, the boatswain (Jeremy Dubin
who also doubles as Trinculo) uses a staff to steer, as he grins and
waves goodbye. (Later this staff becomes Prospero's magic wand, with
which he "steers" the play's action.)  To indicate the storm, the
sailors flap the sails and stagger about the stage.  It's very well
done.

The second scene begins with Prospero (Paul Riopelle) emerging from the
center of the white sails that appear like gigantic white wings from his
shoulders.  (I was impressed by this stroke.)  As Prospero says, "pluck
my magic garment from me" (1.2.24), Miranda (Corinne Mohlenhoff) helps
Prospero detach himself from the sails, which are then ready for their
next function.  As Prospero recounts his misadventures as Duke of Milan,
the main characters in his story magically appear (in dumb show) from
the sails. In this production, Prospero has an evil sister, Antonia
(Lesley Bevan), a real dragon lady with a long, black split dress and a
burgundy stole.  Alonso (Sylvester Little, Jr.) is apparently of African
descent  -- a fact which, I suppose, accounts for his marrying his
daughter Claribel to the King of Tunis.  Keland Grant Scher plays a
weasel-like Sebastian, and Nick Rose a hardy Gonzalo.  So, in this
scene, Prospero acts as the presenter much as Vindice does in the
opening scene of The Revenger's Tragedy.  Purists, of course, will cry
foul, but I thought the dumb show worked well to enliven this
potentially boring scene.  (In some productions, Prospero has to work
hard to keep Miranda awake while he tediously delivers his exposition!)

Throughout, Riopelle's Prospero keeps aloof from the action and the
other characters.  When he addresses another character, he often turns
away, avoiding direct contact.  He is the unmoved mover, and Ariel his
demiurge.  This is nicely suggest in 3.3, where Prospero stands alone
directly behind Ariel, as Ariel takes food from the royal party.

In this production, Ariel (Joseph Verciglio) and Caliban (Giles Davies)
significantly resemble each other -- twins like love and hate.  Ariel
(in black and red) first appears from above Prospero's cave, while
Caliban (in ragged blue) emerges from the trapdoor in the center of the
stage.  Davies's Caliban is excellent in his ape-like chatter and
movements.  Caliban's metaphorical relationship to Ferdinand (Brian
Isaac Phillips) is suggested when Ferdinand crouchs over the trapdoor,
much as Caliban had crouched before him. Both characters, of course,
carry wood for Prospero and find Miranda pretty special.

Phillips's Ferdinand enters smiling, and seems not too upset by his
father's putative death by drowning.  When Prospero commands him to
follow, Ferdinand's "no" (1.2.467) is comic, as he brushes past Prospero
on his way to Miranda.  Miranda is the perfect ingenue.

In 2.1, the sex change from Antonio to Antonia has some interesting
payoffs. The audience sees Antonia as the object of Gonzalo's comment on
"our garments," and the line gets a laugh.  Later when Antonia exclaims
"whores and knaves" (162), she appears to be identifying herself and
Sebastian.  Later, in an obvious but effective gesture, she uses her
burgundy stole to cover Alonso and Gonzalo as they sleep.

R. Chris Reeder (surely the tallest actor on this stage) doubles as
Boatmaster and Stephano who finds Caliban and Trinculo (dressed as Early
Modern jester with phallic bauble) under a sheet in a comic parody of a
certain sexual position (2.2).  No surprises here, but the scene is
genuinely funny, well acted and well received.

Act IV is severely cut.  Iris does not enter, nor does Juno descend.
But one moment in this scene is extremely effective.  When Ariel asks
Prospero, "Do you love me, master? no? (48), he is looking at Ferdinand
and Miranda embracing.  Prospero's answer, "Dearly, my delicate Ariel"
(49), is strangely disquieting in this production.

Perhaps the most interesting moment in the final scene is the entrance
of the royal party because it reflects the interpolated dumb show of 1.2
where we are introduced to their collective guilt.  Now, all is
forgiveness.

This is an excellent production, and I recommend it.

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