Friday, October 12, 2012

The Tempest - MilePost5 Old Chapel Theater - Human-Being-Cusious Theatre, Portland, Oregon

"What Dreams Are Made On"

Shakespeare's The Tempest opened October 11 at the MilePost 5 theater space and will play for one weekend only.  Check out their website for times and more information on their company,

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”  Prophetic words, both within the play and, perhaps, for the producing company.  Transforming dreams is not an easy task.  In the case of theatre you must, create a world; believe in it; share it with others.

In its purest form, this is created within a “black box” environment, wherein the only ingredients are the author’s words, the artists’ talents, and the audience’s imagination.  Anything else might be construed as trappings.

The Tempest is the beginning of that dream for them here.  And, if this production is any indication of future fulfillments, it is the birth of “a sleep” most welcome.  It succeeds in almost every area of presentation of this classic tale.

Prospero (Rowan Morrison), having been forcibly exiled from his own country of Napels (believed dead) and has taken up residence on an island with his daughter, Miranda (Isabella Buckner).  The Island is also inhabited by a goodly spirit, Ariel (Carson Cook) and one of a baser sort, Caliban (Chip Sherman).

By design, Prospero’s old enemies are shipwrecked on this island, so that he can extract some sort of revenge upon them.  Among the assorted motley crew is Ferdinand (Winston Bischof), whom Miranda casts a romantic eye upon.  After many grievous encounters and pensive revelations, all is forgiven and they go their merry ways, perhaps not wiser, but more well-rounded.

This production is strictly within the guidelines of a black box theatre, as there is no  set, simply a bare stage, with the audience surrounding most of the playing space.  The costumes are minimal and, in a couple of cases, leaving little to the imagination.  Had the actors been poor and the speaking of a foreign (stage) language (Shakespearian), it could have been a disaster.

But, for the most part, the actors speak the speech “trippingly on the tongue,” and the performances, outstanding.  Mr. Morrison, as Prospero, is highly articulate in the role and totally believable in his understanding of the complexities of the character.  Ms. Buckner, as Miranda, conveys the needed naivety and awkwardness necessary for a young girl having little exposure to social graces and her male counterparts.

As Caliban, Mr. Sherman, is quite extraordinary in both his physicality and his vocalization of the role.  His Caribbean-type interpretation is organic and very earthy, fitting exactly as to what the role needs.  Mr. Cook, as Ariel, is appropriately agile, ethereal, energetic and mischievous as the harbinger of innocence.

Ty Boice (as Trinculo) and Sam Dinkowitz (Stephano) are a scream as the “comic relief.”  Mr. Boice is the Artistic Director of MilePost5 Summer Shakespeare theatre (and  a terrific Prince Hal in their Henry IV…).  His effeminate portrayal may be stereotypic but the enthusiasm and effusive relish that is engendered within his performance is contagious and blends well with the antics of his mate, Stephano and their foil, Caliban.

Mr. Dinkowitz, is a robust, rousing and thoroughly, roguish Stephano.  His drunken bantering with Trinculo and Caliban is outrageous, to say the least.  The role could fall also into a stereotype of a drunk but, in Mr. Dinkowitz’s deft hands, a uniqueness is maintained in his portrayal.  And, once again, to prove there are really no small characters, Philip J. Berns is a comic delight as the bespectacled, Gonzalo.  He also shone as Francis in his few appearances in Henry IV….

The direction by Cassandra Schwanke is crisp and clever and she keeps the show flowing at a brisk pace.  Working with a minimal space is only an asset to this inventive director and her interpretation of the Bard’s words, quite solid.  Other productions of Shakespeare can get lost in the pageantry and slickness, sometimes stifling the actors and language.  Not so with this production.  It is nice to see the purity and simplicity inherent with Mr. S. onstage again.

The music also should be noted, by Jimmy Pardo.  It gives an extra drive and focus to the show.  Only drawback is that at the beginning, the music and sound tended to drown out the actors lines.  But, all-in-all, a welcome addition to the production.

I am hoping these intrepid seekers of the illusionary truth will continue with their quest.  They seem more than able to make the journey.  The show should been seen, with sincere hopes that more of their revelations will be forthcoming!

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