Theatre Review: THE TEMPEST with Phoenix Theatre

New Theater Group Presents Magical Tempest

I love watching Shakespeare performed.  I see new things nearly every time; therefore, I was excited to see The Tempest mounted by new theater company, the Phoenix Theatre.  Happily, they were more than impressive in their debut offering.  It took great confidence to begin a company with a Shakespearean play, but watching the magic of the Phoenix Theatre, I could tell that this was going to be a special group.  Directed by co-founder, Seth Reich, the production poignantly explores the magical aspects of this Shakespearean standard.

From the opening moments on Stephan Moravski’s spare, but effective set washed by Paul Hudson’s complementary lighting and director Reich’s sound design, the audience knows that it is in for a magical experience. Director Reich takes these opening few minutes to draw the audience into the mystical tone of this production.  This is a play about revenge, but I like the choice that Michael Hajek makes as Prospero, the wronged Duke of Milan.  Instead of the raging Prospero commanding the seas, he has chosen to make his Prospero manipulate the storm as part of a calculated plan.  After being marooned on this island for more than a decade, he is internally seething, not raging.  His Prospero is more calculating.

Ariel is played by co-founder Jessica Myhr in a unique way.  Instead of the peripatetic sprite, she is a stately, powerful force who is indebted to Prospero.  Reich has chosen to give her several young minions to do her bidding.  In addition to giving choreographer (Andres Gallardo Bustillo) and Costumer (Lily Prentice) a chance to demonstrate their theatrical skills, it also gave the opportunity for Reich to incorporate a new generation of actors into Shakespeare.  It is clear in their performance that they have been trained well by the director and understand their intentions in the play.  Kudos to Ariel and all her sprites. It was a different but richer interpretation of Ariel.

The lovers Miranda (Amanda Clark) and Ferdinand (Ryan Cassidy) are both age-appropriate and filled with romantic chemistry.  They are very convincing as lovers.  The comic trio Stephano (Lorenzo Landini), Trinculo (Marcus Barainyak) and Caliban (Lydia Joy Carswell) handle their scenes with comic treachery.  Carswell captures the essence of the “moon cow” despite being too personally beautiful.  Costumes and makeup did their very best.

The choice to update the time period for modern clothes works well for the shipwrecked Dukes, Sebastian (Tiffany Bacon), Prospero’s treacherous brother and Alonso (Dani Joy Foley) the duped Duke of Naples and Ferdinand’s father.  Adding the Secret Service agents was a nice touch since the actors threw themselves into the parts.  Music Director, Brigitte Rottman adds more magical ambience by having spirits singing appropriately magical tunes..

It is great to have such a skilled and committed group joining the ranks of area theaters.  The Tempest bodes well for the future.  It runs until July 21st.  For information visit www.thephoenixtheatrepa.com.

Photo by Ashley Smith of Wide Eyed Studios

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