Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Tempest—The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven—SE Portland

       “Rough Magic”


     One of Shakespeare’s classic fantasies is directed by Mary McDonald-Lewis.  It is playing at their space, SE 2nd between Madison & Hawthorne, through October 6th.  For more information, go to their site at www.thesteepandthornywaytoheaven.com

     Like many of Shakespeare’s plays, revenge seems always to creep into the story.  It was a popular plot device of that time period.  And another item that is predominant to his plays, including this one, is the art of disguise, one person pretending to be another.  In that vain, one possible aspect about the character of Prospero that is barely hinted at but, in the rather good Sci-Fi flick, “Forbidden Planet” (based on this story), it is fairly blatant.  And this is that Ariel, represents the more spiritual, or feminine, side of Man, while Caliban represents the baser, or more macho, side of Man…and they are both created from within Prospero, not outside of him!  Interesting thought, I surmise, but it would be difficult to enact.

     Prospero (Chris Porter) is Lord and Master of his own private isle, with his daughter, Miranda (Katie Mortemore), having been exiled from his own kingdom by his duplicitous brother, Antonio (Wendy Wilcox) and his friend, Sebastian (Peyton McCandless).  And it just happens that they, and a former friend of Prospero’s, Alonso (Lance Woolen) and his son, Ferdinand (Rega Lupo), are aboard this ship at sea as well.  His magic causes a storm to ensure and they are all cast onto his isle.  Others onboard this ill-fated ship are a couple of sots, Trinculo (Zed E. Jones) and his rummy pal, Stephano (Elizabeth Neal).

     The purpose of this abduction is simply revenge, on Prospero’s part, of his kingdom being usurped.  And he has a couple of confederates of his own to help him.  There is the petulant, shiftless slave, Caliban (Nikolas Horaites), part-man, part-beast, it seems, and the engaging sprite, Ariel (Megan Skye Hale, Artistic Director of the company), who are to aid him in his plot.  Ariel is then to be released from servitude when all is done.  And the rest of the story (which I cannot tell you without being a spoiler) is something “…that dreams are made on.”

     The setting and directing, by McDonald-Lewis, in such a confined space is magical in itself.  Every inch of the theatre is used, plus the audience area at times, which makes it truly an “immersive” experience. Porter has the look and bearing of the instigator of the proceedings and Horaites, as the beast, plays him more of a bratty kid just wanting to be naughty and that works for the character.  Jones and Neal are fine comic foils and Woolen is believable as a good but conflicted nobleman.  And Hale is terrific as the fairy spirit, as her attentive manner and methodical movements are of an actor immersed in her character.

     The play, at times, did lack a certain consistency of energy and urgency that the story should have.  I felt it needed more drive at times.  But the space is well-used and the actors do “speak the speech…trippingly on the tongue.”  And Hale is not only a good actor but their shows also reveal her talents as a costume designer, always inventive.  And the sound and lighting, by Myrrh Larsen (creative director of the company), in such a small space, is very clever.

     I recommend this production.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

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