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'The Tempest' sets the mood for summer

Prospero and Caliban on the set with a storm approaching
© Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and used with permission

The Tempest

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The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey opened its 52nd Season last week with a classic from the Bard himself, “The Tempest.” The show which will run until June 22, 2014 has the right mix of colorful language and melodies, a strong cast and a marvelous set. It has been over ten years since this Shakespeare play has appeared on the Main Stage. This version, directed by Bonnie J. Monte, is a superb choice for a theater visit as the summer season begins.

As the play opens, a raging storm is taking place. The fine acoustics and sound system of the Main Stage theater allow the audience to feel like they are caught in a rough piece of weather. The stoic Prospero takes the stage and with language befitting a man of his status, he introduces the story. It is then realized that his magic is being worked to wreck a passing ship which is carrying the conspirators who deposed him to this island twelve years earlier with his then infant daughter Miranda. This island where they landed was inhabited by the spirit Ariel and Caliban. Ariel has many of the lyric lines of the play and in some instances light bits of music represents her power being used. Caliban is a lowly character; one who is so physically dirty that those coming near him use rich language to describe how bad it all is. As the newly shipwrecked men come to shore, all sorts of encounters take place. Very humorous exchanges between Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo are heard as they actively drink some sort of wine and then try to recover from it. Words of love are exchanged between Miranda and Ferdinand as they meet and fall in love. The plotting of shipwrecked men are more stringent in tone. However, the most varied language is that which Prospero uses as he faces his past and his enemies. Prospero’s eventual forgiving of the past indiscretions and releasing of his hold over Ariel are poignant moments to savor.

Sherman Howard plays Prospero with a strength and wisdom to be admired. His daughter, Miranda, is played by Lindsey Kyler in a youthful, very innocent manner and it matches Jackson Moran as Ferdinand as they become a well matched, young couple. The threesome of Jeffrey M. Bender, Stephano, Patrick Toon, Trinculo, and Jon Barker, Caliban, provide the audience with many laughs as they play out their drunken antics. The shipwrecked group includes Sebastian, Andy Baldeschwiler and Antonio, V. Craig Heidenreich, who are avid in their need for power, and Gonzalo graciously played by Richard Bourg,. Andrew Criss plays Alonso, the King of Naples, with concern and worry as he looks for his missing son. The spirit Ariel as played by Erin Partin is so enjoyable to watch. She moves with grace all around as she listens and reacts. Also in the cast are Adam C. Burns, and James Costello.

The set used is absolutely marvelous to look at and see how it is used. It looks like layers of rock with paths that allow the actors to move up and down as they enter and leave as well as perform various scenes. The set takes up most of the stage right out to the edge where several pools of water with nautical objects are contained. The dreary looking piles of dried wood on the sides of the stage indicate that this island is not an easy place on which to live. Equally impressive is the lighting that is used in the background on the cloud patterns. Dark colors are used at stormy moments. Variations of colors move gracefully in and out as Ariel works the spirits magic. Deep colors are displayed as Prospero gives his talks to the audience.

There is just something a little special about this show that makes it perfect for this time of year. To get tickets, visit the theater’s website at www.ShakespeareNJ.org or call the Box Office at 973-408-5600. Performances in Madison, NJ are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

To see more photos of this production, visit www.LetsGototheTheater.com