Arts & Culture

‘Tempest’ enchants the Quiet Green

Arts & Culture Staff Writer
Sunday, October 16, 2011

Shakespeare on the Green staged its traditional Family Weekend production this weekend with Director Christina Sauer’s ’14 adaptation of “The Tempest.”

The play took place in Kassar Auditorium Friday evening due to rain, but thanks to beautiful weather the rest of the weekend, the production was able to move to the Quiet Green and the steps of Manning Hall — its planned location.

The play starts with a tempest, which causes a ship to run aground on a magical island. The castaways include the king of Naples, his son and other subjects. Prospero, a knowledgeable and powerful sorcerer, lives on the island with his daughter Miranda and controls the island’s spirits. He uses the spirits to create the tempest, hoping for redemption against one of the castaways, his brother Antonio, who banished him to the island in a bid for power.

“It’s a comedy, but the theme of forgiveness comes across as well,” Sauer said. “And it’s just fun.”

Sauer’s adaptation preserves the light-hearted nature of the play. The actors prance around, dancing through the audience and running around the green.

Five actors dressed in whimsical costumes portrayed the spirits that Prospero summons. Some were strung with leaves and most wore flowing garments and had their faces painted. They were in constant motion, gamboling around the audience or creeping up to the stage on all fours.

Allison Schaaff ’14 played Ariel and successfully portrayed the playful, mischievous spirit who serves Prospero. She was constantly grinning and skipping around the stage.  

The spirits were one of the most entertaining aspects of the play. All the actors seemed to be having fun and imbued their characters with this excitement. They also sang and were accompanied by musical themes when demonstrating their power. Austen Hyde ’14 composed the spirits’ songs and selected the rest of the music in the play. Overall, the music was well-done, strengthening the production’s emotional intensity.

The trio of Stephano (Erin Schwartz ’15), Caliban (Nicole Damari ’12) and Trinculo (Christian Petroske ’15) was hilarious. When Caliban, Prospero’s scheming slave, was first introduced, he emerged from underneath the Quiet Green’s ring sculpture, where he had been curled up, unnoticed for the first part of the play. The three claimed the majority of the audience’s laughs with their silly antics — Stephano constantly nursed a bottle of wine and drunkenly joked with audience members.

Additional highlights from the cast include Ben Jones ’13 as Antonio and Phillipe Roberts ’15 as Alonso. Jones’ Antonio was wonderfully evil, scowling throughout the production. Roberts’ Alonso was more tragic, genuinely distressed by the apparent death of his son.

Costume design was well-executed, capturing the dual nature of the play, both whimsical and dark at times. Though the spirits were dressed in bright clothing, Caliban looked as though he was dressed in stark scraps of clothing messily sewed together. He slunk about the stage, usually wearing a long, leather, hooded coat resembling a canvas sack.

The staging was notable for its creative design. Though actors made use of the entire field, all action took place on Manning Hall’s steps. Prospero, Miranda and the spirits inhabited the top of the steps, watching the invading castaways at the bottom.

“The ethereal upper level converges with the lower human level at the end,” Sauer said.

One of the play’s weaker points was that it was often hard to hear. Set outside, the play was disrupted by traffic and wind that sometimes drowned out the actors. Stephanie Randall ’15, as Miranda, was particularly hard to hear. Though she did well embodying the innocent and endearingly naive character, her voice did not carry as well as other voices.

Shakespeare on the Green’s adaptation of “The Tempest” was magical and entertaining — talented actors turned the Quiet Green into Prospero’s island playground.

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