Curtain Call reviews the Sherman Playhouse production of ‘The Tempest’
Sherman Playhouse, Sherman: Leave it to director Robin Frome to select a Shakespearean play written more than 400 years ago that couldn’t be more timely for 2019. With current events looking like a three-ring circus and our country politically focused on the presidential election next year, a major issue to be considered is freedom. Will the people demand it or give it away to power-seeking government officials? Shakespeare focuses on freedom in “The Tempest” as the spirits, fairies and servants want their freedom from Prospero, the master on an enchanted island. He is the former Duke of Milan who was exiled by his own power-seeking brother Antonio and his cronies. Prospero is a man of great power and now seeks revenge. He uses the spirit Ariel to further that goal by creating a tempest at sea that brings his nearly drowned and deceitful brother as well as other power-hungry notables to Prospero’s island where they are completely at his mercy.
Perhaps, the play is Shakespeare’s cry for freedom from writing. This play is one of, if not, his last plays. Did he want to finally put down his pen?
Katherine Almquist dressed and acting like a ringmaster takes on the lead role of Prospero here. She is not the first woman to take on the male gendered character, but she succeeds so well in the role that it is easy to see why some scholars believe that Prospero represents Shakespeare. The reason for this is that Shakespeare has total control of his characters in this, one of his last plays, as Prospero has full authority over all of the actions of all the entities on the island, whether spirit or human. Almquist allows no doubt as to who is in control here. Add to this that the director opens the play with Ariel at the typewriter and the connection to Shakespeare and the importance of the writing of the play is solidly established.
Ariel, looking like a trapeze artist and as pretty and fanciful a spirit if ever there was one, is played by Liv Heaton. This actress has enough ethereal and pixiesh panache to win over the audience easily. Ariel shows complete loyalty to Prospero in order to win her freedom, however, Caliban, the devilish servant who is not so loyal, wants his freedom, but also wants the wine that a jester and butler seem to have in hefty supply. John Bergdahl plays Caliban and adds great energy to this cast while creating a most memorable and calculating dancing Caliban. Tyler Holm, as Trinculo the jester, and Frederic Thaler, as Stephano the butler, both perform convincingly as drunks. Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano add the comic element to the play, pick up the pace, and thoroughly delight the audience. They also contribute significantly to director Frome’s circus theme as they are most definitely clownish.
There is also a strong romantic element to this play. King Alonso played by noble-acting Dean Alexander believes his son Ferdinand has been lost at sea and is delighted to learn that not only has his son made it to the island but is in love with Prospero’s daughter Miranda. In short order the two are married. Lizzy Booth plays Miranda convincingly and Patrick Fergus takes on the role of the love struck Ferdinand.
This is a very large community theater cast with mixed theatrical abilities. The opening scene captures the vicious storm at sea, but at the cost of not being able to hear the lines spoken by most of the actors in that scene. There are a few exceptions, one being John Fabiani who leans forward on the cleverly made seaship and makes sure his lines are heard. Others in the cast include: Tom Heydenburg, Michael Schaner, Thomas Mendicino, Jeff Rossman, Kat Taborsak, Campbell Coughlin and Abl Heydenburg.
Frome directs and designed the set; Al Chiappetta designed the lighting; David White designed the sound, and Missy Hanlon was in charge of costumes. Overall, this is a good production running through July 20. Box office: 860-354-3622.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.