The Tempest: A Theatrical Review
What is commonly believed to be the final theatrical piece actually authored by William Shakespeare, The Tempest, like most every production every written by Shakespeare, has a powerful political message for the hierarchy or leadership at the time in which Shakespeare himself lived. Like many of Shakespeare’s productions, this one offers an array of emotions, mythical thinking, and emotionally evoking thoughts that if seen clearly through the eyes of the defining theater lover, can still tell us some incredibly powerful things even today.
This production, which is believed to have been written in year 1611, is recorded as having been first performed for King James’ Court. Politically speaking, Shakespeare attempted, in his own way, to guide the aristocracy to see things as they truly were, not just as they perceived them to be, or were told that they were by attendants who all too often had their own agendas to accomplish. During this time in Shakespeare’s history, exploring and colonizing the new and unknown world had become a very popular thing. But in the process of this, many great men (and quite often a good number of ladies as well) were lost, apparently at or too the sea. There was a great deal of suspect ideas of what these ‘new worlds’ would be like, and not unlike the suspicions of our world today, there was a good deal of fear and concern that if there were inhabitants of these new worlds, that they would be other-worldly, filled with evil spirits, magic, deformity, and a host of other unknown and or unforeseen maladies.
Having provided a bit (and I am only beginning to scratch the surface here) of history and understanding of a Shakespearean selection such as The Tempest for my readers who may not be familiar with this kind of work, allow me to elaborate on this particular production. The Tempest is a production about a grand Duke, Prospero (as Shakespeare names him) who is lost at sea, stranded on a magical island while attempting to find the new world. There, with his daughter Miranda, Prospero has learned the ways of the natives, and become master over them. He has rescued a spirit known as Ariel and kept her as his own so that he might one day find a way home with her assistance, as well as others. Many years after their shipwreck, Prospero finally gets his opportunity when he learns that queen herself, along with her son and their court are on a seaward journey themselves. Prospero utilizes Ariel to have the queen’s ship run aground on their island, but somehow divide the son from the mother and her immediate attendants, and they, from the queen’s butler and his attendant. Here, again assisted by Ariel, Prospero goes about regaining his own title – stolen by his evil sister – as well as securing his daughters future by having her fall in love with the queens son. He also goes about helping the queen to see that her immediate assistants have their own personal plans that have nothing to do with respect, honor, or allegiance to the queen; in truth, politically, a very powerful story.
As part of the Southern California Shakespeare Festival, The Tempest is well directed by Sam Robinson, and for this critic’s part features a number of promising young performers. One equity performer is part of this production as well, and whether by nerves or pompous impetuousness, single handedly attempted to destroy the work and power of the others in the production by not know a good number of his lines, obviously forgetting staging on a regular basis, and generally not be believable better than sixty percent of the time he was on the stage. The spotlight of this program goes out to an extremely talented and capable young actress I would be proud to work with as a director myself. This young woman not only has the experience needed, but the understanding and appreciation required to do Shakespeare justice. This young woman, Danielle Ramos, who portrays the spirit Ariel, is simply elegant and sublime. Her presence on the stage made the show worth enjoying for me, regardless of my personal frustration with the equity performer.
This is by no means what I would call exceptional Shakespeare, but it is not the worst either. I want to thank director Sam Robinson, artistic director Linda Bisesti, and apparently house manager Theresa Dunipace, for caring enough about the powerful lessons and psychologically challenging concepts of Repertory Theater such as Shakespeare, to work as hard as they have to bring this to the stage. In doing so, they have not only kept alive the importance and power of this medium, but have encouraged and guided the minds of their performers to learn the psychology, the political power, and the emotional prowess of what theater is supposed to be. Good job to each of you!
The Tempest is playing at the Studio Theatre on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona, located at 3801 W. Temple Ave. Building 25 in Pomona, CA 91768 through September 30th. Performances are Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 2PM with a special Friday night performance on September 21st at 8PM. Admission is only $15 per person, and there are discounts available for students with identification. To make a reservation to see this production of The Tempest, contact 909-869-3800, or log onto the internet at www.southerncaliforniashakespearefestival.org.
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