THE TEMPEST at CalShakes a magical treat

(Lower Right) Erika Chong Shuch as Ariel, (Upper Right) Michael Winters and Nicholas Pelczar as Stephan and Trinculo (Lower Left l to r) Catherine Castellanos as Caliban, Emily Kitchens as Miranda and Michael Winters as prospero in The Tempest, directed by Jonathan Moscone ; photo by Kevin Berne.

THE TEMPEST by William Shakkespeare. Directed by Jonathan Moscone. California Shakespeare Theater (CalShakes), Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda. (510) 548-9666 or May 30–Jun 24

THE TEMPEST at CalShakes a magical treat

A few years ago the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland received a National Grant to produce Shakespeare making his works more attractive to younger patrons. Jonathan Moscone, artistic director for CalShakes has taken a page from their directive and revisualized The Tempest that will attract audiences of all ages.

A Shakespearean devotee may complain about messing with the great playwright but if they attend Moscone’s mounting with a great cast of six playing 11 roles plus three energetic Sprites lifting them across Emily Green’s terrific shipwreck set dressed in magical costumes by Anna Oliver, with Cliff Caruthers’ sound design and Gabe Maxson’s lighting they may relent and just sit back and enjoy the fun.

Yes, Moscone has cut the play (dropping Gonzalo and others from the script) and added his own dialog. In doing so buries a few of the much quoted lines. One sentence given to the clownish Trinculo (Nicholas Pelczar) will have you never ordering Tilapia again! The fact that Moscone selected Michael Winters, who was a perfect Falstaff in Ashland, to play Prospero as an avuncular character initially seems inappropriate but before the first act is over you become inured to the conceit.

You will again have to allow your imagination to soar when Winters appears as the drunken Stephano to play opposite Nicholas’s Pelczar’s limber-limbed Trinculo when they meet the odiferous Caliban (Catherine Castellanos) and are subjected to the shenanigans of Ariel (Erika Chong Shuch) who floats about the set as if she has wings. Those scenes are played as if they were designed for an English Music Hall skit, compete with Cockney accents.

The story line remains intact although there are changes in order of the scenes that have no bearing on the plot. Prospero, the former Duke of Milan was overthrown by Alonso, King of Naples (James Carpenter) and now lives on an island where through his books has become a great sorcerer. His budding young daughter Miranda (Emily Kitchens) has never seen a male other than her father. Ariel is the mischievous magical sprite doing the sorcerer’s bidding and the ugly, unkempt Caliban, son of the witch Sycorax, is the true owner of the Isle but is relegated to be a slave.

In the opening scene Prospero whips up a storm, magnificently staged by Moscone, and shipwrecked individuals enter. They include, Alonso and his son Ferdinand (Nicholas Pelczar), Antonio (Catherine Castellanos) Prospero’s brother, who has usurped his position as Duke of Milan and treacherous brother Sebastian (Emily Kitchens). Changing the order of some scenes allow his actors to effectively switch roles.

Erika Chong Shuch is also the choreographer and she moves the three black clad sprites about ethereally and gracefully with lifts and turns bringing oohs and aahs from the audience. A real treat that even Shakespeare would love is nuptial scene of Ferdinand and Miranda where an ancient Victrola appears, one of the sprites takes the mike to mouth the lyrics to Nat King Cole singing “Stardust.”

It is a short two hour and 20 minute evening including intermission. On this opening night the sunny early evening morphed into a tolerable chill and it is adviseable to bundle up when you go to an evening performance and you really should. It is a Tempest well worth braving the potential elements to see.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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