Although its solid is dedicated to the strangeness of the fabric, The Tempest, onstage at Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse by way of November 27, lacks a lot of the magic of the Atlanta Shakespeare Firm’s greatest productions.
The Tavern is most fascinating nowadays when its reveals lean into creative casting and new concepts, embracing the variety and experimental nature of its proficient ensemble firm. This summer time’s productions of an all-female The Service provider of Venice and an all-Black The Full Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) labored as a result of the casts and crew have been clearly having a blast approaching previous work from new angles. Within the spring, the manufacturing of The Nation Spouse was uncommon, raucous and filthy, and its solid was sport. Their enthusiasm in all these reveals spilled over into the viewers members, who’re at all times down for a superb time there.
With The Tempest, issues are extra muddled. Very similar to the characters misplaced after a storm, the actors right here really feel a bit disconnected from one another, somewhat than dedicated to a central thought. Essentially the most compelling performances come from actors taking part in characters aligned with magic, but the types of efficiency conflict even amongst them. The common human characters, in the meantime, come throughout like pawns in a sport. It feels as if this ensemble is taking part in individually, somewhat than collectively.
There are cool parts within the stagecraft, although. The costuming by Anne Carole Butler and Clint Horne is strong, significantly concerning how they costume the sorcerer Prospero, the spirit Ariel and the deformed Caliban. The opening shipwreck is well-choreographed chaos from Director Jaclyn Hofmann Faircloth and Kati Grace Brown, encompassing all ranges of the multi-tiered stage. The harpy puppet, designed by Sarah Beth Hester, is a spotlight, as effectively. The lighting design by Greg Hanthorn Jr. is eerie all through the present, significantly when Caliban emerges from a pit at heart stage.
The story of The Tempest, although, turns into a bit laborious to comply with, because the viewers will get little thought who these characters are earlier than they’re scattered.
The play begins as a gaggle of Neapolitan nobles, together with the king, coming back from a distant wedding ceremony by ship. The bitter Prospero (Jeff Watkins), as soon as a duke and now exiled for 12 years to an island together with his daughter Miranda (Jasmine Renee Ellis), makes use of magic books and a fairy spirit Ariel (Amanda Lindsey McDonald) to conjure a storm that troubles the ship. Quickly, the celebration of nobles – which incorporates Prospero’s treacherous brother, Antonio (Mary Ruth Ralston) – is separated and stranded on the bizarre, enchanted island.
The king’s son Ferdinand (Daryel T. Monson) is lured by Ariel to Prospero’s residence, the place he falls instantly for Miranda.
In the meantime, Ariel and a monstrous Caliban (Justin Walker), the son of a witch trapped in a rock for as soon as attacking Miranda, are enslaved by Prospero and do his bidding in an try to regain their freedom. Each of them work together with the wandering nobles in an try to enchant and deceive them.
Prospero’s objectives appear to be revenge towards those that tried to destroy him, however he isn’t with out sympathy. But it stays unclear which impulse will information him.
It’s all very bizarre. And it has been since William Shakespeare first wrote it within the seventeenth century.
As Prospero, Watkins instructions the language effectively, delivering his traces with pace and wit. Watkins is greatest when the character adheres to darker impulses, for he performs the weather of a devious mastermind very effectively. His phrases are reducing, main different performers to attraction to him for heat and sympathy. It’s an fascinating dynamic. And Watkins’ supply of the ultimate monologue ends the play on a excessive be aware.
Ellis, who starred in Lizzie with Actors Specific this summer time, is great as soon as once more. Her Miranda is heat and beautiful, and Ellis performs up the character’s lusts for lots of snickers. Her scenes with Monson are romantic and interesting.
Ralston’s Antonio will get restricted stage time, but the performer offers the character an air of sinister treachery, stealing the scenes they’re in.
Walker’s Caliban is a wierd beast, certainly. The actor is hunched, talking in a strained voice, struggling as he strikes. And but there’s a tragic unhappiness on the coronary heart of the portrayal, a eager for connection. When the character laughs in a wheezing gasp for air, making an attempt to narrate to different characters, the impact could be very humorous. It’s good work.
And McDonald does terrific work as Ariel. When the character flits about wordlessly within the opening scene to carry concerning the shipwreck, the character instructions consideration. When Ariel begs for freedom, not solely trusting Prospero, McDonald conveys the desperation acutely. Her quest for freedom turns into the driving narrative of the play.
However as a gaggle, each throughout the play and as an ensemble right here, they’re all on completely different pages. Faircloth excels extra on the large stage parts than at making relationships and dynamics clear among the many performers.
The ensuing present is a combined bag.
Benjamin Carr, a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation, is an arts journalist and critic who has contributed to ArtsATL since 2019. His performs have been produced at The Winery Theatre in Manhattan, as a part of the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Quick Play Competition, and the Middle for Puppetry Arts. His novel Impacted was revealed by The Story Plant in 2021.