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.