by William Shakespeare
Teeming with fairies, monsters, shipwrecks, and magic, The Tempest is Shakespeare's last and most mature romance. The deposed Duke Prospero and his lovely daughter, Miranda, are shipwrecked on a small island where nothing is quite as it seems. But as they separate fantasy from authenticity, they eventually discover a "brave new world" of love, harmony, and redemption.
If I had to pick a Shakespearean play that was reliably enjoyable, I’d say The Tempest is nearly always a safe bet. It has adventure, magic, vengeance, romance, comedy, and did I mention the magic? It’s a fun play the wistfulness of power passing from one generation to the next, and it’s this edge of melancholy that keeps it from becoming a child’s play.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival production, like always, was magical. The play became with a storm that soon became a real one as the sky above the theatre opened up and rain came pouring down. I was lucky enough to be seated in a covered area; some of the audience members in the nicer seats below were getting drenched. Once, then twice the play was paused as the actors waited to see if the rain would let up. It persisted, and eventually the show was moved indoors. When the storm passed, the play returned to the outdoor stage. If I can still describe the play as magical when it had so many fits and pauses, you know that it was good.
Prospero and Miranda were a touch crustier than usual; in most versions of the play that I’ve seen, these two manage to retain an aura of nobility even though they live in exile, but in this version Prospero looks like a hippie-cult leader in simple white robes while his daughter rushes around with dreadlocked hair and a dress clearly inspired by the attempts of Ariel (the Disney mermaid, not Prospero’s servant) to cloth herself with an old sailcloth. They were not that far removed from Caliban’s decrepit state, although his dirty, reptilian appearance made his subhuman status plain. His earthbound state and raw masculinity contrasts nicely with Ariel, a blue feathery spirit whose feminine frame and freaky colorless eyes exudes otherworldliness with every step and gesture.
There are a group of men from Milan and Naples who, as part of Prospero’s great plan, are shipwrecked on the island. I have no idea which is which, really. I ought to know, since I’ve seen this play a handful of times, but whenever I see the men on stage they all blend together. I usually figure out who Ferdinand is, because he’s constantly wandering off with Miranda, but the others? Just anonymous European men in torn clothing.
But it’s a good, solid play, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was the perfect way to close out my time with the Utah Shakespeare Festival.