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Family Ties Bound To Be a Hit in for Human Race Theatre

Review by Liz Eichler of Family Ties: Human Race Theatre

The cast of “Family Ties”at Human Race Theatre

Imagine the television network pitch: liberal activist parents raising a conservative son. Comedy ensues. Would it work? Well, it worked for seven years on the CBS series Family Ties as a young Republican questioned his liberal parents’ values. It also works in Family Ties the Play.

Family Ties is a bittersweet look at raising children and growing up (both kids and parents admit to growing, up is another matter). This world premiere, fully supported by both CBS and NBC, opened June 2 in Dayton’s Human Race Theatre, and charmed the audience, much like the Emmy winning series.

The 1980’s show Family Ties was “must see TV” and America was transfixed for seven seasons with the progress of former 1960s hippies raising a politically conservative son, and two sweet and witty daughters. Focusing on the travails of Alex’s high school and college years, the theme of family first prevailed, no matter how differently they think.

Fast forward 20 years, and this play looks at the Keatons in 2008, a time of hope and change. Alex, the son, is running for senate in New York, after a successful Wall Street career. He realizes that he is embracing some of his parent’s politics, and looks forward to the possibility of the first black president. The girls are married with children, living nearby in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio.

They gather at their parent’s house to celebrate dad Steven’s 40 years managing a PBS station, and mom is there to referee. Comedy ensues, but overarching the comedy, is the heart felt connection and responsibility they have with each other: family comes first.

There is truth in this show. Clearly the playwright, Daniel Goldstein, understands the angst of living with young adults, biologically driven to push away from their parents. As they say in the play, every kid wonders if they really are related to these strangers. These conflicting tensions of wanting to be a part of something, but at the same time moving away from it, is a part of life. Here we get the perspective of the parents, and their pain and truth of living with these pre-fully adult beings, as well as the now-adult, as the play proceeds in a series of flashbacks. These times of cross purposes, conflicting needs, and sharing perspectives hit in the heart. I’d like my kids to see this character, Alex, as he finally sees the importance of passing advice from one generation to the other.

The cast delivers, both in likeness to the original characters, as well as comedy. Jim Stanek (Alex) carries the show. You will love him and his verbal and physical energy. He is a politician we would all love to see, driven for success, but with a core of humanity. Thea Brooks (Mallory) and Sara Mackie (Jennifer) are the lovable but different siblings, and flesh out their characters. (Season 5 addition, younger brother Andy, is in the Peace Corp and cannot get back for his father’s tribute.) First love, Ellen (Maggie Lou Rader), is featured in flashback, as Alex explores pivotal moments in his life which got him where he is today.

Lawrence Redmond (Steve) is both warm and formal, enthusiastic, and curious. Eve Plumb (Elyse) is the more grounded and serious parent, reeling in Steve’s idealism, while maintaining her own. She has a quieter strength and both are a joy to watch.

There are the familiar one-liners of a TV sitcom, but also a bigger message. Steven and Elyse share their struggles of parenting while “the line between helping and protecting “ isn’t always clear. Another key theme is that we parents often see ourselves as kids, still trying to figure things out, but our kids look at us as authorities. Keeping a consistent message is hard, but as long as parents are both on the same page, it is easier to manage the pushback from the children.

The set, designed by Tamara Honesty, is a perfect homage to the ‘80s with furniture and color scheme. Not much changed since the 80s, except for the KitchenAid coffee pot. Just like our parents’ house—the things that change are only the things that break.

Going into the play, I admit I was skeptical. How could the playwright and director walk the tightrope of making the show interesting and relevant? With the keen direction of Kevin Moore, the beautiful setting, and this ensemble of actors, you too will deem this “must see” theatre. If you have kids in their 20s hanging around your house—bring them, so they can see how we parents have it tough as well. Flashing back between young Alex and 30 year old Alex is a great framework to explore these differing perspectives. Sound designer Jay Brunner manages these transitions well, but occasionally the lighting could better support the time travel. A few parts of the script still need polishing (what is a restricted club and why is that bad?) but overall a great, poignant evening at the theatre.

This play continues through June 25, and is recommended. I also recommend pitching this updated version to the television networks, as the tensions between conservatives and liberals these days could really use a bit of laughs and perspective.

Incline’s Damn Yankees is Devilishly Engaging

Review by Laurel Humes of Damn Yankees: Incline Theatre

William Jackson and Rachel Perin in “Damn Yankees”

I’m still humming “You’ve Got to Have Heart,” one of the pleasures of Damn Yankees, the baseball themed musical now onstage at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.

The 1955 show has historical fact – there was a Washington Senators team and the New York Yankees did dominate Major League Baseball. And baseball was truly America’s pastime.

So it’s not hard to imagine a middle-aged die-hard Senators’ fan named Joe, watching another losing game, proclaiming “I’d sell my soul for a long-ball hitter.”

But then – he does! With the added enticement that he can be transformed into the (younger) star player who will lead the Senators to the pennant.

The pact with Mr. ‘The Devil’ Applegate (Rodger Pille) is made by the older Joe (Tim Perrino) and carried out by the younger Joe (William Jackson). Indeed, the Senators do keep winning once Joe joins the team. There are a lot of unlikely plot twists from there to the happy ending.

A realistic plot, however, is not the reason 1950’s musicals are revived. It’s for the songs, the dancing and, in this show, the nostalgia. These are some reasons to see Incline Theater’s Damn Yankees:

The terrific opening number, “Six Months Out of Every Year,” when Joe’s wife Meg (a wonderful Michelle Wells) laments losing her husband to baseball from April to September. He is planted in front of the TV; she tries to have a conversation. Soon they are joined by five other couples, all the husbands in swivel rockers, tuned only to the game, all the wives trying vainly to get their attention.
Rodger Pille’s devil is dapper, in dress and manner, as he maneuvers Joe through their pact. Pille is not the center of every scene, but his face is so expressive, he could be. Reacting also is acting.
Standout number by Renee Stoltzfus as Gloria the Reporter, backed up by the Senators team, of “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.” She is an accomplished singer and dancer.
The fine voices and high energy of the young people in the cast, at least 8 of whom are just starting or in college. This includes William Jackson as young Joe, whose singing voice, acting and mannerisms belie his youth.
1950’s nostalgia, meticulously created by set designer Brett Bowling and costumer and properties designer Caren Brady.
A hometown flavor – you will hear the voices of Reds’ games broadcaster Marty Brennaman and former star Pete Rose as (not so inside joke) the baseball commissioner.
However … Damn Yankees the show is kind of creaky, repetitive and overlong – 62 years after it opened on Broadway. Still, thanks to Incline Theater for reviving it with a competent production.

Damn Yankees is part of Cincinnati Landmark Productions’ Summer Classic Series. It runs through June 18 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill. For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.

 

Incline Theatre Has a Solid Hit in Damn Yankees

Review by Doug Iden of Damn Yankees: Incline Theatre

If you are disappointed about the Reds season so far, imagine being a Washington Senators fan during the 1950’s when the New York Yankees routinely drubbed the home team. This is the premise of Damn Yankees, a classic musical which is playing at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater. Based upon Douglass Wallop’s “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant,” Damn Yankees tells the story of a middle-aged, long suffering Senators fan (an actual team at the time) who is so dispirited by the hapless Senators that he offers to sell his soul to the Devil if his team could win the American League pennant. Shazam, Mr. Applegate (the Devil, played by Rodger Pille with gleeful malevolence) strikes a deal to transform Joe Boyd (Tim Perrino) into a baseball phenom named Joe Hardy (William Jackson). However, not only did Joe bargain away his soul but he also risks losing his soulmate wife Meg (Michelle Wells) with whom he is still very much in love. However, (spoiler alert) this is a musical and, chances are, there will be a happy ending.

The show is very upbeat with a lot of music and dancing, all tied to the baseball theme. The current presentation does not hit a homer but it is a good, solid triple. There is a good transition from middle-aged Joe to young Joe when Perrino starts the song “Goodbye, Old Girl” (referring to his wife) and then Jackson finishes the song with a very strong voice. Jackson is only a sophomore at CCM but his voice and command of the stage promise a very bright future.

We immediately meet the downtrodden Senators team who try to bolster their beleaguered season by singing “Heart”. The lineup of the male ensemble includes Tyler Gau, Stephen Welch, Drew Simendinger, Nick Godfrey, Chris Carter, Cian Steele and Cameron Nailey. The ensemble also doubles as reporters and dancers in various scenes.

Joe makes an immediate impact and the team starts winning but a nosy reporter Gloria Thorpe (Renee Stoltzfus) starts inquiring about Joe’s mysterious past. How could such a phenomenal player have come out of nowhere? Applegate improvises an answer which leads to the lively production number “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.”. His background will lead to plot complications later.

But Joe is heartbroken about leaving his wife so he makes an arrangement, much to the chagrin of Applegate, to rent space in his wife’s house. There is an immediate connection when his wife senses something about young Joe. Applegate responds by enlisting his “weapon of mass destruction” named Lola (Rachel Perin) to seduce Joe and make him forget his wife. This leads to another hit song from the show, “Whatever Lola Wants”. Over time, however, Lola begins to soften her feelings about Joe and ends up helping him to thwart Applegate.

The score, written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, who previously penned The Pajama Game, is high-energy music replete with clever comedic songs such as “A Little Brains, A Little Talent”, “The Game” and “Those Were the Good Old Days” along with ballad “Near to You” sung by young Joe and his wife. The singing over all is good with highlights including Jackson and Michelle Wells. Pille, as Applegate, exudes an unctuous charisma and sings a good duet with Lola called “Two Lost Souls”. Perin, who plays Lola, tries to channel Gwen Verdon (the original Broadway actress) with reasonable success. She is a good dancer and singer and is convincing as the sexy vamp. Steve Goers leads the band as usual but the horns need a little more practice.

There is a lot of dancing in this show. I’m always interested in seeing what choreographers (Kate Stark) do with the original Bob Fosse dances. Fosse’s style is very eccentric and very difficult. It appears that Stark has combined original choreography with a touch of Fosse to overall good effect. The dancing is energetic (frenetic at times) and effectively moves the story along.

With no curtain, the Incline set designers led by Brett Bowling have perfected the art of multisided set pieces which are turned to create a new scene. Most of the scenes are the Boyd’s living room and the team’s locker room. The lighting was mostly effective although it appears they missed a lighting cue at the end of the first act.

There are a few unique sound effects by Denny Reed including the sound of a batted ball. Also, they have recorded the voices of Pete Rose (who plays a disembodied Baseball Commissioner) and Marty Brennaman doing a brief play-by-play of the fictional final season game between the Senators and the Yankees. There is also a joke told at Rose’s expense.

So lace up your cleats, grab your ball cap and glove and steal your way down to the Incline for the highly entertaining show Damn Yankees continuing through June 18.

Quickstepping through Falcon Theatre’s Master Harold… And the Boys

Review by Alan Jozwiak of Master Harold…and the Boys: Falcon Theatre

These days, ballroom dancing seems reserved for reality television shows like Dancing with the Stars—something that ordinary people do not participate in. However, learning the quickstep forms part of the basic storyline for Athol Fugard’s masterpiece Master Harold…And the Boys.

Set in South Africa Tea Room during a rainy afternoon in 1950, Master Harold discusses the trials and tribulations of Hally (Rupert Daniel Spraul), who is having problems with his alcoholic father and enabling mother. Listening to Hally’s woes are the servants in the tea room, Willie (Deondra Kamau Means) and Sam (Ken Early). Both Willie and Sam are avid ballroom dancers and are practicing for the upcoming dancing competition, much to the consternation of Hally. They are have to deal with the rules of apartheid or the strict racial segregation practices that went into effect in 1948.

This production had some of the best acting out of any of the Falcon Theatre productions this season. Director and Producer Ted Weil, fresh off of his acting success in Falcon’s Rabbit Hole, did an amazing job with his cast to produce a play that moves slowly and deliberately to its unexpected climax. Weil allows his actors to shine and find their own voices within the characters—something that each cast member does to perfection.

Spraul’s Hally was simply outstanding—both entirely believable and completely compelling to watch. Hally goes through a huge range of emotions within this short play and Spraul was able to go from being playful and nostalgic to despairing and hateful swiftly and effortlessly. A CCM Acting senior this coming academic year, Spraul is an actor to watch out for in the coming theater season. Already, he is treading the boards around town, having done a fine job in Clifton Performance Theater’s Small Engine Repair last month.

Similarly, Early’s Sam was almost like watching a master class in acting. Early is a master at how to play quiet dignity and restraint while under duress. In playing Sam, Early is deftly able to articulate the problems that Sam has in facing Hally while still maintaining his character’s dignity. It is a delicate balancing act that Early accomplishes beautifully.

Rounding out this trio of actors is Means’s portrayal of Willie. This is perhaps the most difficult role in the play to perform because Willie’s lines are mostly in the beginning and at the end of the play. In the middle, he has to play the role of the Greek Chorus listening and responding to the stories bandied about by Sam and Hally. Means does this job exceedingly well. We don’t forget that Means is there when he is not speaking, but Means serves to support the other characters as they flow in and out of different stories and memories.

In short, this was an amazing production of a play that needs to be seen by the greater Cincinnati theater-going public. It is worth the time and energy to take this ninety minute journey into the lives of these three characters. Master Harold…And the Boys only runs for one more weekend, Thursday May 18 to Saturday May 20, 2017 at the Monmouth Theater in Newport. Ticket information can be found on Falcon’s website http://falcontheater.net.

Growing up is Hard for Master Harold a Struggle Well Portrayed on Falcon’s Stage


Review by Ken Stern of Master Harold…and the Boys: Falcon Theatre

In the best of all worlds, in an ideal setting, life is hard enough for teenagers growing into maturity, reaching towards their authentic adult human self. In the real world, fathers are crippled, physically and mentally as war veterans, ruined by alcohol, and shrunken by acquiescing to apartheid. That is true for us looking in the mirror or looking at 1950 Port Elizabeth, South Africa through the lens of playwright Athol Fugard’s 1982 Tony winning play, on stage at the Falcon Theatre through May 20th.

Go see “Master Harold” . . . And the Boys for a look into the past. See it for our present moment. See it for the production and the strong performances of the ensemble cast.

The lights come up on Willie (Deondra Means) and Sam (Ken Early), impeccably dressed in white suit coats and shirts and black pants and ties, who are employees killing time in a tea room devoid of customers on a rainy afternoon. They’re long time buds, middle aged, regular Joes, Willie dreaming of a trophy in the upcoming regional dance contest. Sam helps, coaching on dance steps (“Look like you’re enjoying it.” Suffering Willie: “I wasn’t”), and advising on love and marriage: “Don’t hit your wife if you want her to be your dance partner.” There is gentle humor between these two friends, and the audience laughed on cue. These men care for each other. They have been friends for a long time.

Deondra Means’ Willie is a plain, working-class-hero type of guy. Means’ performance is as solid as the character he plays, and being human, offers a humorous dimension. He was appreciated by the audience.

Soon Hally (Rupert Spraul), enters. A high school senior, in dark blue blazer and a tie, he is the son of the tea room’s owner, an Afrikaaner, white, and also long acquainted with Willie and Sam. Listen as well as watch closely, for this play is filled more with ideas than action. The relationships are what matter.

Spraul glides in, at home in his mother’s store. He is smooth, verbally and physically agile, confident, the epitome of white privilege. Did that term exist in 1950? He is youthful, exuberant. Spraul’s performance, along with his mop of hair that he occasionally pushes off his forehead, is pitch perfect, including the accent. Credit dialect coach Kate Glasheen for so solidly placing the audience in South Africa through her work with the cast.

Getting ready for exams, drafting a writing assignment, Hally bubbles over with his classroom knowledge. He quizzes Sam on “men of magnitude,” Hally’s are thinkers, scientists: Darwin, Einstein. Hally has obviously been sharing his lessons with Sam for years. While Sam doesn’t have a formal education, he is quietly undaunted, naming Lincoln and Gandhi as men of magnitude, though Hally dismisses each’s accomplishments.

The conversation soon makes it clear that Hally has been raised as much by Willie and Sam, as Hally recounts visits to their servants’ quarters as a boy. Early’s Sam has a quiet dignity, and the solidness from knowing and trusting one’s self. Sam is a teacher and mentor as much as a father, quietly challenging and coaching Hally to consider higher, rather than lower options.

Hally’s parents, while not present, are influential characters. His mom called before the play opened, and Hally’s first question is about his dad, in the hospital, again, a war amputee and also an alcoholic. Repeated calls from mom confirm that she is bringing the father home. Her last call does more than interrupt the afternoon’s mood: Hally is transformed. Without any outward notice, Hally has made a monumental decision. While critical, and furious with his father’s physical and emotional debilitations, Hally embraces his father, and the status quo of apartheid South Africa.

He instructs Sam that from now on he is to address him as “Master Harold.” This is a direct challenge to Sam, and their close, historic relationship. Sam grasps the magnitude of the moment and quietly warns Hally “If you make me say it once, I’ll never call you anything else again.” Even as Sam challenges Hally, he works to save Hally’s humanity. A tense scene grows tenser as Hally struggles to choose between his father and his friend, the idealistic hopes of youth and the reality of 1950 South Africa.

But, good father that Sam is, he gives Hally another chance. Youth that he is, Hally is not able to grow into the moment. Changing the future starts with self-made changes. And, if any of us are not up for it, we walk away.

Sam and Willie? They entered dancing. At the end, their steps are in unison. They know the song and the dance.

Ted Weil, director, producer, lighting and set designer and constructor, Falcon’s jack of all trades, has once again superbly led and supported a production into its realization on the Falcon stage.

Performances are Thursday through Saturday through May 20th at 8:00 PM at the Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth Street, Newport, Kentucky 41071; Box Office: 513-479-6783. For more information, go to falcontheater.net.

Falcon Faces the Repercussions of Racism in Master Harold…And the Boys

Review by Laurel Humes of Master Harold…And the Boys: Falcon Theatre

Racism – personal and institutional – is explored in Falcon Theatre’s excellent production of Athol Fugard’s acclaimed play Master Harold …And the Boys.

It is 1950 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Apartheid, the country’s system of legal racial segregation and discrimination, had formally begun in 1948, and would continue until 1991. Fugard’s play was produced in 1982 on Broadway – initially banned in South Africa.

Those facts are important as background, because Master Harold is not a history lesson. At first, you would hardly guess there’s a dark cloud of legal racism hanging over the lives of the three characters.

Willie (Deondra Kamau Means) and Sam (Ken Early) work at the tea room owned by 17-year-old Hally’s (Rupert Daniel Spraul) parents. Willie and Sam are middle-aged black men. Hally – the Master Harold of the play’s title – is white. Willie and especially Sam have cared for Hally his whole life.

The entire play takes place on a rainy afternoon when Hally returns from school. Much of the conversation is a warm reminiscence between Sam and Hally – when they flew a kite together, the schoolwork they’ve always done together. And the time Sam helped Hally rescue his publicly drunk father.

Sam is clearly the father figure to Hally, whose own war-injured, alcoholic father is currently in the hospital. But in a series of phone calls from his mother, Hally learns his father is coming home. Now the drinking, fighting and constant caregiving will resume.

That is the emotional turning point of the play. Hally has no power over his own circumstances. But, just because he is white in 1950 in South Africa, he has power over Sam. Hally turns his anger on Sam, with words and then a hateful gesture that produces a gasp from the audience.

The actors in Falcon’s Master Harold are superb. Spraul, still an acting student at CCM, more than holds his own with the more experienced Early and Means. The role encompasses a range of adolescent but real emotions, from cocky to frightened to furious. Spraul makes them all believable.

Early plays Sam with dignity and love. He brings the audience with him as he experiences shock, hurt and his own anger when Hally turns on him. We see his internal struggle to move past the hateful encounter toward – maybe – reconciliation.

The playwright must have known his audiences would need some comic relief, so he created Willie. Means makes the most of the physical and scripted comedy he is given. He also shows us a 1950’s South African man who is always aware of his “place” – he is the one who continually addresses Hally as Master Harold.

The May 11 show was unexpectedly special, as director Ted Weil arranged for pre-show remarks by Dr. Eric Jackson, associate professor of history at Northern Kentucky University. Dr. Jackson was joined post-show by the cast, with audience members also invited to join the discussion. Since that was a one-night-only event, I continue to urge Falcon to include director’s notes in its program in the belief that an educated audience is a better one.

Master Harold … And the Boys continues at Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport, through May 20. Go to www.falcontheatre.net for ticket information.

CSC’s The Tempest Plays With Magic And Moving On

Review by Liz Eichler of The Tempest: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Nick Rose right) and Geoffrey Warren Barnes II in “The Tempest”

There are many reasons you should get to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, playing through May 20 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. Yes, it is their last show on Race Street, before they move into their beautiful new home in Washington Park, but above these sentimental reasons, it is a clear and marvelous telling of Shakespeare’s tale of love, magic, and forgiveness.

The directors’ concept is treating the stage as a stage, the actors as players, and cover them with the materials of theatricality. Muslin, the fabric of first drafts of costumes, as well as sails, is featured. The walls are covered with it and the sea is built with it. The solitary “ghost lamp” starts and ends the play, reminding us we are in a theatre. Nick Rose enters and crosses, showing us a book of Shakespeare’s plays, a wink, and a smile. And then we are off with a bang.

Rose becomes Prospero, and has fun with the character. He talks to us, the audience. He lets us in on his plot to find his daughter a worthy husband (Crystian Wilsthire is a charming prince Ferdinand). He shows a tenderness to daughter Miranda (the sweet Aiden Sims) and powerful connection with his servant, the sprite Ariel. Kaitlin McWethy as Ariel has imbued Ariel with a fluidness and light. Her physical transformation transfixes the audience. Prospero’s other servant is Caliban, played close to the ground by Geoffrey Warren Barnes II, an earthly lizard-like beast.

The Tempest is a play about the magical Prospero, who conjures up a storm to lure a boat carrying key players that not only removed his dukedom, but forced him and his daughter to spend the last 12 years on this semi-deserted island. Washed ashore are King Alonso (Jim Hopkins), the usurping Duke Antonia (Kelly Mengelkoch), advisor Gonzalo (Paul Riopelle), and plotter Sebastian (Kyle Brumley). Also on the boat are assorted mariners, the jester Trinculo (Justin McCombs), and the drunken butler, Stephano (Billy Chace). McCombs and Chace, once again, demonstrate why they are Cincinnati’s reigning comedy kings.

The story and actors come together because of the magical direction of the team of Sara Clark, Jeremy Dubin and Brian Isaac Phillips. They spin this tale to make it accessible to audiences old and young, for example, helping Prospero conjure up characters to punctuate the exposition. We understand the different stories, who is who and why. The directors highlight the enchantments on the island, never letting us forget there is magic, especially through the use of light, music, and movement. Kudos to illusionists Doug Borntrager (projections and sound), and Justen N. Locke (lighting).

The theme of the play is forgiveness. Starting afresh. Moving on. Celebrating who we are now, and dancing for hope of the future. Was this Race Street home their muslin mock-up, the rough draft for the wonders to come? “O, brave new world!” Make sure you are one of the “beauteous” people to say good bye to this space and join them in the new. Call now for tickets 513-381-2273. Seats are selling fast, www.cincyshakes.com.

CSC’s Tempest Ends Its Season with a Bang Before Heading to a Brave New World

Review by Doug Iden of The Tempest: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Nick Rose (right) and Caitlin McWethy in “The Tempest”

The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company triumphantly opened its final show at its current Race Street location in tempestuous fashion with one of Shakespeare’s last plays, The Tempest. The play tells the story of sorcerer Prospero (Nicholas Rose), the rightful Duke of Milan, who is set adrift with his daughter Miranda (Aiden Sims) and, years later, plots revenge against his usurpers. Using magic, he conjures an immense storm and tricks his nemesis brother (re-named Antonia and played by Kelly Mengelkoch) and King of Naples Alonso (Jim Hopkins) into thinking that they have been marooned on the island as well. The dispenser of his magical charms is sprite Ariel (played intriguingly by Caitlin McWethy) who shadows most of the characters unseen by all but Prospero. Three interwoven stories are told with Prospero playing matchmaker with Miranda and Ferdinand (Alonso’s son played by Crystian Wiltshire). His ministrations succeed admirably. In the second story, deformed island native Caliban (a slave of Prospero portrayed mischievously by Geoffrey Warren Barnes II) plots with jester Trinculo (Justin McCombs) and drunken butler Stephano (Billy Chace) to perform a coup against Prospero. The third scenario details Sebastian (Kyle Brumley) and Antonia’s attempt to replace Alonso as the king. Ariel, at Prospero’s bidding, foils all of the coup attempts and, eventually, earns her freedom.

The Shakespeare Company has an advantage in that it is a resident group of actors who work together year round which is reflected in the ease with which they interact. There are some outstanding performances including Rose as Prospero who is both a character and a narrator and McWethy as Ariel who is part sprite, part enchantress and part scene stealer. Barnes has an interesting take on Caliban with reptilian mannerisms and an undefinable accent. But the stage really lights up when McCombs (as Trinculo) and Chace (Stephano) cavort in various states of drunkenness, often in contrast with Caliban’s monstrosity. All are directed by the triumvirate of Sara Clark, Jeremy Dubin and Brian Isaac Phillips.

Identified variously as a Romance and/or a Comedy, The Tempest boasts villainous action, romantic love and slapstick buffoonery in equal proportions. This mixture makes this an unusual and interesting Shakespearian play.

But the really interesting aspect of the show is the staging (designed by Shannon Robert) which is a combination of modern technology and some very old-fashioned theatrical tricks such as using sheets manipulated by actors to simulate waves. As you walk into the theater, there is a bare stage flanked by shabby sail material against the aisle walls. The play opens with a single light and recordings of numerous well-known Shakespearean quotes from other shows. Suddenly, the storm starts and we see projections of waves on the walls accompanied by the clash of thunder and actors simulating the rocking of the ship. Throughout the show, we see numerous surreal projections adding to the eeriness and effective use of many small lights hanging from the ceiling above the audience, all designed and controlled by Justen Locke. At the end of the play, the actors strip the canvas from the walls and the play reverts to a black stage with the actors out of costume and in street clothes. It seems to be an ending to the era of the current theater.

So don’t let a little Stormy Weather inhibit you and enjoy The Tempest, presented by the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through May 20.