Presented by Actors’ Shakespeare Project
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Allyn Burrows
Review by Travis Manni
(Brookline, MA) One of the most exciting things about seeing any production of a Shakespeare show is how vast the possibilities are for interpretation. The fact that I was completely new to the world of The Tempest, which serves as Artistic Director Allyn Burrows’ final show with Actors’ Shakespeare Project, made seeing a production of it that much more thrilling.
The Tempest tells the story of Prospero (Marya Lowry), a magician whose jealous brother Antonio (Thomas Grenon) deposed her, and her then-three-year-old daughter Miranda (Lydia Barnett-Mulligan), to a remote island. For twelve long years, Prospero has sat patiently, becoming learned in magical arts, and waiting for the chance to regain her title as Duke of Milan.
With the help of her loyal servant Ariel (Samantha Richert), a spirit that the enchantress released from a magical imprisonment, Prospero’s plot is set in motion when a boat carrying her brother and other royalty passes near the island. Conjuring a storm to strand the travelers, Prospero’s greatest test will be whether to enact revenge, or exercise immense compassion and forgiveness when she is reunited with Antonio.
On its own, this show is successful because of how compelling and captivating each character is. Aside from her magnificent power, Prospero exudes a great amount of morality; both a nurturing and loving parent and an unyielding force of determination, while still maintaining a soft humanity that any person who’s been betrayed wishes they could claim as their own. Lowry, never doubting her right to play the typically male lead, fits the role magnificently, exuding a consistent matriarchal strength and humanity, commanding her scenes from her first instant on stage.
Equally mesmerizing was Richert’s portrayal of Ariel. Though a servant to the island’s enchantress, she has a clear loyalty that feels more like a genuine affection, which makes the final moment between the two an emotional goodbye. Richert was also able to manipulate the movements of her character to portray menace, delicacy, and a spritely allure, dancing and twisting herself across the stage to captivate or trick her victims.
Mara Sidmore and Michael Forden Walker as court jester Trinculo, and drunken butler Sebastian respectively provided great comedic relief to the looming tension of an awkward family reunion. Jesse Hinson as the groveling, enslaved Caliban encapsulated a primal savagery while still gaining the audience’s sympathy and pity.
As for the romantic pair, Barnett-Mulligan as the childish Miranda was charming but uninteresting, while the chemistry with suitor Ferdinand (Kai Tshikosi) never sparked or became multi-dimensional. Though to be fair, both seemed like plot devices to ensure the success of Prospero’s mission.
Besides the overall delightful cast, the visuals in this show were exquisite. Tyler Kinney’s set design drew from the sea-faring aspects of the island setting, using various shades of brown to capture sand and caves and trees. Chris Bocchiaro’s lighting design created a perfect marriage with the set, becoming a dazzling spectacle during a meteor shower scene complete with cascading lights. And Amber Voner’s costumes were as powerful as Prospero’s magic. Ranging from rigid and mighty in Prospero’s grey, fitted jacket to Ariel’s mermaid-like silver skin, each piece told the story of its character before words were spoken.
What’s so marvelous about The Tempest is the integrity it is able to maintain. In a world of sorcery, it preaches that forgiveness is one of the strongest pieces of magic at anyone’s disposal. If you’ve yet to see a Shakespeare show, ASP’s production of The Tempest is a wonderful introduction to the magic and lyrical craft of the English playwright, or a welcome return to any Shakespeare buff. The message is powerful and the show, a beautifully constructed bit of story telling, is a bittersweet farewell to Artistic Director Allyn Burrows.
The Tempest runs for 2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission. To purchase tickets, click here.