Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 22, 2017

The Tempest

Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, MA
through September 3, 2017
by Rebecca Phelps

Hats off to Shakespeare and Company as they continue to hold to their mission of bringing fine theatre to the Berkshires and of making Shakespeare authentic, yet accessible to modern audiences for over the past 40 years. And congratulations to Allyn Burrows, overall artistic director of Shakespeare and Company, and director of this fanciful production.

Photo by Olivia Winslow
The story of “The Tempest” takes place on an unnamed, uninhabited island. Prospero, the former Duke of Milan, and now its master, uses magic to create the storm that ship-wrecks his usurping brother and his entourage. They are washed up on the island; thus begins the plot of Prospero’s revenge. Treachery, comedy and romance ensue as these characters meet surprises, challenges, strange spells and forms of magic, always under the ever-watchful Prospero’s control.

Nigel Gore, a veteran actor of this company, brings urgency and power to the role of the lead character. Gore controls the elements, the spirits, the plot – the entire stage, as he depicts this many faceted individual: sorcerer, father, tyrant, match-maker, avenger and redeemer.

Ella Loudon’s Miranda is a feisty daughter, bringing a fresh interpretation to a character often portrayed as subservient to her all powerful father. Not Ella Loudon. Her earthy Miranda stands up to both her father and the monstrous Caliban. She meets her newly found lover Ferdinand (Deaon Griffin-Pressley) directly, frontally and without guile or shrinking.

Jason Asprey brings a riveting blend of brutishness and sensitivity to the abused/abusive Caliban, who serves Prospero as “a savage and deformed slave” and whose mother was the witch Sycorax. Asprey portrays menacing, disgusting, pitiful, and poetic and always captivating.

The actors in Shakespeare and Company always provide animated, full-throttle  performances filled with athleticism and well defined characters. The antics of Trinculo as played by Bella Merlin, and Stephano as played by Mark Zeisler, provide just the right amount of hilarity to this magical, mystical tale.

On the night we saw the show the clouds threatened rain, but the company was prepared, and so the first act was performed in The Rose Footprint Theatre. Luckily the weather improved over the course of the evening, and we were treated to a second act performed as in the round, with its full production values, including a huge white spirit hung from far above the garden, an inventive system of sound effects and a tree from which the agile and ever illusive Ariel appeared. The final magical touch of the evening was a rainbow, which appeared overhead during the wedding scene – as if on cue!

Allyn Burrows and the company of actors at Shakespeare and Company make good use of “The Tempest’s” magic in every way – set, costumes, special effects and performances. A thoroughly entertaining and bewitching evening, and a perfect way to leave earthly cares and concerns behind.