Classic Theatre of Maryland’s production of The Tempest is a colorful, vibrant celebration of Shakespeare’s final play. Directed by Donald Hicken, with Sally Boyett as choreographer, it is an exciting play for the summer.
Dexter Hamlett plays Prospero, magician and ruler of the island, with authority. He threatens Ariel (Alex Goshert) when she reminds him of his promise to free her, and angrily disciplines Caliban (Drew Sharpe) when he gets too close. He also has moments of quiet, thoughtful emotion, as when he considers his desire for revenge or plans to give up his magic and return to civilization. His final speech is rich with power and earnestness.
Alex Goshert brings high energy to Ariel, Prospero’s spirit servant. She constantly moves around the stage, spinning colored string from her arms. Usually eager to please Prospero, she challenges him when he seems to forget his promise to free her. Facing the other humans, she fills her voice with threatening power. Anna Colvin and Serenity Mariana give a lightness to the other Spirits, full of authority as Iris and Ceres in the wedding.
Drew Sharpe gives an anger to Caliban, Prospero’s monstrous servant. Stooped over and crawling on the stage, he rages against Prospero and Miranda (Devlin Stark). Given liquor by Stephano (Thomas Ovitt), he bows down before the human, pledging his undying loyalty and urging them forward to overthrow Prospero.
Devlin Stark gives a childlike innocence to Miranda. At the play’s beginning, she is frightened at her father’s display of power. On first seeing Ferdinand (Matthew Harkins), she is instantly smitten, admiring him and trying to protect him from her father. By the end, she is overwhelmed with joy at this “brave new world, that hath such people in it.”
Matthew Harkins plays Ferdinand with enthusiasm, gladly moving logs for Prospero and eagerly talking with Miranda. At first, trying to defend himself against Prospero, he quickly sees the folly and follows the magician’s orders. He and Stark make a wonderful couple, both youthful and innocently ignorant of their family’s history.
Nancy Krebs brings a quiet strength to Alonsa, Queen of Naples. This is a change of gender from the original play. At first, she resigns herself to her son Ferdinand’s likely death, but reels in shock after encountering Ariel and seeming to hear Ferdinand. By play’s end, she regains her composure, wanting to hear Prospero’s remarkable tale.
John Pruessner gives a lightness to Gonzalo, Alonsa’s servant. He enthusiastically sings the praises of the island, seeing a possible utopia. Lukas Chaviano and Jack Venton are full of menace as Antonio and Sebastian. They sneer at attempts to improve the group’s situation and draw swords on Alonsa and Gonzalo at their first opportunity.
Andy Donnelly as Trinculo and Thomas Ovitt as Stephano are the comic heart of the play. Donnelly points out the ridiculousness of Caliban as a threat and the absurdity of their situation. Ovitt, initially stumbling with a cask of liquor, takes to his role as Caliban’s new lord, giving him orders and striking Donnelly when he seemingly insults Caliban. Soon though, they all look foolish, tattered and stumbling.
Scenic Designer Salydon Boykin creates a lush paradise on stage, with greenery throughout. A babbling stream runs on the right-hand side, while nets frame both sides. A blue tarp in front serves as the storm in the beginning. Costume Designer Sally Boyett creates a 19th-century feel in her outfits, with top hats, bowler hats, and vests. Prospero looks mysterious in a dark cloak, while Miranda seems innocent in a white dress. Ferdinand has a red jacket and beige vest, while Antonio and Sebastian seem sinister in black suits and top hats. Caliban wears a ragged green cloak, while Ariel looks bird-like in a feathered pelt. Wig Designer Tommy Malek has wild, colorful hair for Caliban, with different colors for Ariel.
Lighting Designer Hailey LaRoe uses colorful lighting whenever Prospero or Ariel perform magic, adding to the supernatural feeling. Lighting flashes during the tempest at the beginning. Sound Designer Folger Ridout throws out mysterious sounds at the right moments. During the wedding ceremony, the Spirits speak in amplified “godly” sounding voices.
Choreographer Sally Boyett has lots of beautiful movements throughout, especially in the wedding scene. Donald Hicken does a great job as director. The actors make excellent use of the stage, and make the magic scenes feel compelling and surprisingly real. Everything comes together for a night of enchantment while offering much to consider afterward.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, including a 15-minute intermission.
The program for The Tempest is online here.