The IU Department of Theatre Drama and Contemporary Dance’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest is thoughtfully shaped and skillfully produced with some creative surprises and fine performances.
The play begins on the stage of the Ruth N. Halls Theatre with flashes of lightning, crashes of thunder and the howling of winds. A ship’s crew and passengers move from side to side imitating a boat in heavy seas. There’s a lot of shouting and most of the lines are lost, but the drama of the struggle is intact.
The play is set on an island ruled by the magician Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan. Prospero has used his magic to create the play’s tempest. The storm brings his usurping brother Antonio, the usurpers partner Alonso the King of Naples and the King’s son Ferdinand to the island.
In the next scene peace has returned. The magician reassures his daughter Miranda that all was an illusion. The ship is safely moored, the crew asleep and the passengers dispersed on the island. Then Prospero tells his daughter of his Brother Antonio’s treachery, their kidnapping and miraculous arrival on the island some twelve years ago. Mathew Murry’s fine performance presents Prospero as intelligent, thoughtful and dramatically capable of a variety of emotions. Erin Logan’s Miranda is a fetchingly played wide eyed innocent.
After a brief nap for Miranda, Prospero introduces her to Ferdinand, Devni May, and as he plans the two are smitten with one another. Just to stretch things out a bit, the magician at first seems to object a bit.
One of the creative surprises of IU’s The Tempest is the presentation of Prospero’s indentured airy spirit Ariel. Three wonderfully athletic and expressive woman share the role. Movement artist Paulina Makowska has coached the three on their very active use of aerial silks. Their graceful moves take them up down and around the whole set. Great care has been taken with their dialog as well. Individual speeches may be solo efforts or split among them or shared in chorus. Sound designer Tony Stoeri keeps their words clear. The three are Athena Kopulos; Emily Rozman, and Courtney Relyea-Spivack. They also appear, through Reuben Lucas’s projections gracing the play’s wedding masque as Ceres, Iris and Juno.
A second set of pleasures of IU’s …Tempest are King Alonso’s jester Trinculo and his tipsy butler Stephano. Tara Chiusano as the jester was a Wednesday night favorite as she sat on the edge of the stage and talked to the audience. Abby Lee as the butler tipped her derby toward Laurel and Hardy as part of her comedy. Throughout, the unrecognizable but dramatic Ashley Dillard held forth as the rough, scheming and much maligned original owner of the island, Calaban.
Of the other actors in the cast enjoyed Nicholas Jenkins as Antonio, Prospero’s murderous usurping brother and the much more sympathetic Reid Frances Henry as the loyal Gonzalo.
Throughout the performance of The Tempest Kevin Nelson’s open set and backdrop worked nicely for the action and lit by Mathew Wofford complemented the silks. Courtney Foxworthy’s costumes from the comical to the graceful nicely fit and separated the characters. Throughout the evening the play moved quickly, although I did think that the wrapping up of the drama seemed a bit facile and could be streamlined. Director Henry Woronicz has done a masterful job in molding a dramatic, entertaining and often amusing production with the many resources of the IU Theatre
Final performances of IU’s well-worth-seeing production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest continue with evening shows Thursday and Friday and then a matinee and an evening performance on Saturday.
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker
Shakespeare's play directed by Henry Woronicz with Kevin Nelson, design; Courtney Foxworthy, costumes; Matthew Wofford, lighting; Tony Stoeri, sound; Reuben Lucas, projections, Paulina Makowska, silks; Paul Mortilla, music
Ruth N. Halls Theatre
Feb 23-24 and Feb 28- Mar 4, 2017