Last week, The Tempest, one of Shakespeare's later, and more fantastical works transformed Robsham Theater into something truly magnificent. I sauntered into the auditorium late Wednesday night, engrossed in yet another GIF of Kanye West zip-lining or something; I didn't even look up before I slouched down into my seat. When I finally detached from the glowing white screen what I saw nearly caused me to slide off my chair all the way into row below me. Massive chandelier-like structures, painstakingly created from netting and recycled plastic and glass, illuminated in various colors by stage lights high overhead. The stage loomed in front of me, extended past its normal length to accommodate a dynamic ladder structure and small, cute pool. The floor of the stage looked like a piece of paper being held up by a corner, creating a very interesting platform for an enchanting sorcerous to cast spells while still managing to double as a slide for the more adventurous, or under the influence, cast members to enjoy. Surrounding the main action, painted ladders jutted from the ground in a way that resembled Superman's secret crystal lair, but in a much more prison-chic fashion.
The Tempest has always been known for its visual spectacle, often opening with massive sails, whipping gusts of wind, and the cracking of lightening. When the lights dimmed, BC's show, directed by Patricia Riggin, was fairly standard, albeit with great scale and grandeur. For those seeing the show for the first time and those unshaken by the storm alike, the spectacle of the storm signaled an exciting beginning of a very unique Shakespearean experience.
The story follows the tale of an exiled Duke of Milan, Prospero (converted to Prospera, for our enchanting female lead, Sarah Mass, A&S'15) and her doe-eyed daughter, Miranda (Kylie Fletcher, A&S'18) and the hijinks that ensue after Prospera, with the help of her acrobatic spirit servant Ariel (Julianne Quaas, A&S'15), casts a tempest onto a ship carrying her traitorous sister, a pair of drunks, a Queen, a Prince and a few members of the court, causing them to be marooned upon Prospera's isle of exile. She seeks revenge, for her sister Antonia (Samuela Nematchoua, A&S'18) snatched the dukedom from her and was directly responsible for her exile. However, if this play were all about some evil sister being punished for being a generally awful person, that would be rather boring. Instead, the audience is given the joy of watching Prospera change emotionally before them, softening her cold heart, which was a challenge Mass overcame with flying colors. Her emotional range was astounding, and her propensities for Shakespearian English and storytelling were a delight.
Many of us have experienced a Shakespeare play and been bored out of our skulls. The dialogue is flat, you have literally no clue what is going on throughout 85% of the play, and it feels like your own personal hell. Well, BC's production was actually nothing like that. The actors strove to be heard, and more importantly understood. Shakespearian dialogue isn't natural to listen to and usually takes effort to understand, however each member of the cast seemed to speak as if they had never learned our modern English. This allowed the audience to sit back and enjoy, instead of intently attempting to grasp on to a sliver of plot line. Where I was most impressed was with Caliban (Dustin Pazar, A&S'15), the primitive islander employed as Prospera's slave. At points, especially during his hysterical drunken escapades with Trinculo (Matthew Appleby, A&S'15) and Stephano (Leo Bond, LSOE'15), he sounds animalistic and nearly incomprehensible, while just a scene before he is eloquently expressing complex emotions and feelings. He was a beast, with scales on half of his face and walking on all fours, and Pazar still managed to create a character with complexity that solicited empathy and laughs from the whole crowd.
However, this complicated and skilled acting was not unique to Pazar and Mass, but permeated throughout the entire cast. Julianne Quaas portrayed Prospera's spirit servant Ariel with an overload of mischief and sass as she swung from the ladders littered around the set in her insane costume, giving the play a mischievously fun vibe. She was grinning from ear to ear nearly the whole play through from all the pleasure she received from tormenting the island's new royal inhabitants, and the audience couldn't help but grin along with her. This was true for each of the cast members in their own parts, and the entire production came together for a grand and very entertaining experience. If this play, in addition to Legally Blonde earlier this year, is any indication, the future for theater at BC looks very bright.
This bio is dedicated to all the teachers that told me
I'd never amount to nothin', to all the people that lived above the
buildings that I was hustlin' in front of that called the police on
me when I was just tryin' to make some money to feed my daughter, it's all good baby baby