PCPA’s large Marian Theatre is closed as it undergoes renovation, but the Theaterfest’s fine actors and creative team are making good use of the intimate Severson Theatre in the round as they turn it into a magical island for Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
The play opens with an amazingly creative ship in the throes of a shipwreck. Constructed with ropes and fabric, the ship twists and rocks and its passengers bounce about inside it, and some fall overboard and swim on the floor. It’s a stunning start nearly on the laps of the audience, and the design is fascinating, especially if you notice that the ship’s sides are made of T-shirts. DeAnne Kennedy is scenic designer.
This is just the beginning of the magic on the island, where Prospero, the rightful duke of Milan, has been deserted with his daughter Miranda and has become a sorcerer, aided by the sprite Ariel and an array of spirits who do his bidding. He has conjured the tempest to wreck the ship which carries his usurping brother Antonio, Alonso, the king of Naples, and the king’s son, Ferdinand, as well as others.
When Ferdinand, believing the rest have drowned, encounters Prospero and Miranda, he falls in love with her, and she, who has never seen a man other than her father, is blown away by this handsome young man. Meanwhile, the others have survived, and Prospero deals with his inner tempest as his desire for revenge is transformed to forgiveness.
Director Patricia M. Troxel has set the play on an island off the coast of Yemen, and given Ariel and her troupe of spirits costumes and music with an Arabian flavor. Elisabeth Rebel has composed original music for the show, and Frederick P. Deeben is costume designer.
Andrew Philpot is strong and charismatic as Prospero, and Jasmin Sim is a properly sweet and innocent Miranda. Ferdinand is played by the classically handsome Lafras le Roux, and it’s easy to see why Miranda is smitten.
The two more supernatural characters are the lovely sprite Ariel and Prospero’s slave, the “monster” Caliban, who is the son of the witch who once owned the island and who believes the island is rightfully his. Karin Hendricks, with blond dreadlocks, is a graceful and likable Ariel, as she creates the magic that manipulates the shipwrecked men.
George Walker plays Caliban, more an angry wild man than a monster, as he is sometimes portrayed. Walker is dramatic, but more comical than scary.
The best comic sequences come when Quinn Mattfeld and Michael Jenkinson, as the king’s jester and butler find each other on the island. Mattfeld is hilarious as the increasingly drunken fellow who has managed to escape the ship with a jug of wine, which he shares with Jenkinson, also funny, and finally with Caliban. Their antics, occasionally interacting with the audience, are a highlight of the show.
The shipwrecked royalty is played by some of PCPA’s other resident Equity actors, including Peter S. Hadres, and Leo Cortez, and Elizabeth Stuart is the Goddess of Marriage in a lovely ceremony, danced by the ensemble of sprites.
As always, the PCPA actors deliver Shakespeare’s lines with clarity and emotion. There are enduring lines in this play, from the terms “brave new world” and “sea change” to the phrases “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows” and Prospero’s “We are such stuff as dreams are made on …”
“The Tempest” has been widely performed and interpreted in myriad ways, but this production is a basic version, enhanced with the dance and music of the Middle East. It is classic Shakespeare.
IF YOU GO
Various times and dates through March 20
Severson Theatre, 800 S. College Drive, Santa Maria
922-8313 or pcpa.org