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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Shakespeare Theatre Opens 2014 Season with The Tempest
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

Also see Bob's review of Grease


Sherman Howard
Prospero is up to his old tricks harnessing the magical powers and spirits of the island off the coast of Italy where he and his fifteen-year-old daughter have been marooned for twelve years to brew up a storm in the pleasing Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey production of the Bard's likely final play, The Tempest.

This gentle storm safely shipwrecks onto the island Prospero's wicked brother, who has usurped the Dukedom of Milan from him: Alonso, The King of Naples; and his nubile son, Ferdinand, along with sundry members of their entourage. Over the course of two and a half hours, Shakespeare and his players treat us to magic, melodrama and comedy as Prospero sets matters aright for all.

Director Bonnie J. Monte, with the inestimable support of scenic designer Brian Clinnin and lighting designer Tony Galaska, has provided a towering and visually striking stage setting which enhances the power, intimacy and magic of the production. Extending beyond the proscenium and dominating the entire stage is a massive rock formation which rises to tower above the auditorium. Until the final scene, only Prospero (and only when he is invoking magical powers) ascends to the top of the rock formation. Sherman Howard's strong and smoothly confident portrayal is abetted by the setting and its employment in giving Prospero the larger than life stage power of a fairy tale wizard as he towers over us. And the play's ultimate scene(s) are dramatically heightened as Howard and the other players portraying the royals and their high consorts are arrayed across the stage on the high points of the rock formation as they reveal and resolve their conflicts. The background is a large cyclorama of clouded sky and sea which with changing reflected patterns of light reveals shifting patterns and appears to be three dimensional. It is magical, indeed.

Sherman Howard delightfully dominates the production by always keeping his love for Miranda, and wit and delight with which he sets the world aright, close at hand. Jackson Moran has charm and likeability to spare as Ferdinand. Playing opposite him as Miranda, Lindsey Kyler performs well, but doesn't match the delight which Moran brings to their scenes together.

Richard Bourg impresses with the propriety and dignity of his portrayal of the King's councilor Gonzalo. Andrew Criss, V. Craig Heidenreich, Andy Baldeschwiler and Adam C. Burns competently fill out the roster of royals.

Particular audience favorites are Erin Partin, who is a lovely, ethereal Ariel, and Jon Barker (Caliban), Patrick Toon (Trinculo) and Jeffrey M. Bender (Stephano), respectively slave, jester and butler to royalty and comic foils for the Bard.

Shakespeare Theatre's The Tempest is well conceived, well performed, easily accessible and entertaining.

The Tempest continues performances (Evenings: Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday (except 6/22) 7:30 pm/ Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8 pm; Matinees: Saturday and Sunday 2 pm) through June 22, 2014, at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, on the campus of Drew University, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940. Box Office: 973-408-5600, online: www.shakespeareNJ.org.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare; directed by Bonnie J. Monte

Cast
Prospero……………………………....Sherman Howard
Miranda…………………………………..Lindsey Kyler
Ariel……………………………………….....Erin Partin
Caliban………………………………………Jon Barker
Ferdinand…………………………...…..Jackson Moran
Alonso…………………………………...Andrew Criss
Gonzalo………………………………...Richard Bourg
Adrian………………………………….Adam C. Burns
Sebastian…………………….........Andy Baldeschwiler
Antonio………………………….V. Craig Heidenreich
Trinculo…………………………………..Patrick Toon
Stephano…………....……………….Jeffrey M. Bender
Master of the Boat……………….....….James Costello


Photo: Jerry Dalia


- Bob Rendell



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