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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Tempest

Also see Susan's review of 13 Rue de l'Amour

The Tempest
Michael Rudko, Erin Weaver and Todd Scofield
The production of William Shakespeare's The Tempestnow at the Folger Theatre in Washington is often beautiful to watch, but not especially dramatic. While director Aaron Posner has done striking work in the past, winning the 2007 Helen Hayes Award for his Measure for Measure on the same stage, this production tends to soothe rather than stimulate an audience.

The story of Prospero (Michael Rudko), the deposed duke of Milan who loves books and magic more than governance, is open to many interpretations. The program of the Folger production notes the question of forgiveness and accepting that the past is truly past; the difficult relationship between Prospero and the monster Caliban (Todd Scofield) as a metaphor for colonization and imperial rule over native populations; and suggestions of Prospero's enchanted island as an image of the then recently settled American continent. These ideas are all interesting, but Posner doesn't elaborate on any of them too deeply, preferring to stay with lovely-looking surfaces.

Rudko presents Prospero as primarily cerebral instead of being driven by vengeance, bringing his enemies to him "more in sorrow than in anger," to quote another Shakespeare play. Interestingly, as Prospero's daughter Miranda, Erin Weaver conveys the willfulness and even arrogance one might expect from her father. She portrays the character as very young, but this Miranda has enough inner strength to stand up to Caliban without her father's help, and she becomes the aggressor as soon as she sees Ferdinand (Mikaal Sulaiman), the shipwrecked prince who is to be her husband.

Tony Cisek has based his scenic design on circles: circular platforms, circular tracings on the floor, and a suspended disc behind which the sprite Ariel (Marybeth Fritzky) stands to hear Prospero's orders. The disc is covered with a scrim that becomes the screen for John Boesche's projections of roiling seas, terrified faces, and searing fires. Lindsay Jones' sound design adds to the illusion by, on occasion, projecting Ariel's voice from different parts of the auditorium.

As part of Posner's gentle vision, Caliban is less a terrifying wild beast than an overgrown spoiled child. The actor gets the chance to branch out by also portraying the two shipwrecked sailors who conspire with Caliban to overthrow Prospero. (Scofield uses his hands to represent the other characters, in a way that older audiences will remember from a performer named Señor Wences.)

Folger Theatre
The Tempest
May 9th June 17th
By William Shakespeare
Antonio: Michael Stewart Allen
Ariel: Marybeth Fritzky
Prospero: Michael Rudko
Sebastian: Jefferson A. Russell
Caliban: Todd Scofield
Ferdinand: Mikaal Sulaiman
Alonso: David Emerson Toney
Miranda: Erin Weaver
Gonzalo: Jim Zidar
Directed by Aaron Posner
201 E. Capitol St., S.E.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or www.folger.edu


Photo: Carol Pratt


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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