Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tempest brings treasures at Seattle Shakes

Every time I see a production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest I grow more fond of the play. The latest, put on by Seattle Shakespeare Company and directed by George Mount, adds to our appreciation immensely. The show includes a number of memorable performances, the best of which is a marvelous turn by Michael Winters as Prospero.

Winters brings tremendous range to the role, from thundering anger that rattled the theater to tender matchmaking to tearful forgiveness. (That's Winters as Prospero in hacked-off mode at right in a Seattle Shakes photo by John Ulman.) Winters is a treasure. He's been all over Seattle stages of late. Recently Weisenheimer has seen him in You Can't Take it With You at the Seattle Rep, and in Mame at the 5th Avenue. The Seattle Times ran a nice Q&A between Winters and Misha Berson as the play opened earlier this month.

Another recently discovered favorite, Carolyn Marie Monroe, plays Prospero's daughter Miranda, a far cry from the grumpy goth teen Rachel she portrayed in End Days in February at Seattle Public Theatre. Monroe also played Opehlia in the Green Stage production of Hamlet last summer.

The two other women in the cast were marvelous as well. Hana Lass as Ariel demonstrated a huge singing voice, necessary to be heard above the howling wind and crashing waves of the tempest. Kerry Ryan was a hoot as Trinculo, with her slapstick scenes and funny faces and voices. Ryan may be Shakes' go-to woman comic; she was also a laugh riot in Servant of Two Masters earlier this season.

Props to Peter Dylan O'Connor for his portrayal of Caliban, done with semi-human zeal in a way that brought to mind the creepy Gollum from the Lord of the Rings flicks.

The costumes by Doris Black were grand, particularly Caliban and Ariel. The latter impressed my Sweetie, the official scorer, who claimed that she might have become an actress if she'd known she could wear a bustle. Ariel's headgear included a veil and all sorts of belts and ropes and sufficiently shipwreck-y stuff. That's Lass as Ariel in another Ulman photo at right. Click here to see it big.

Our one quibble with the show was the decision to play it as sort of end-of-life dream sequence for Prospero. That's a hospital gown under Winters' robe in the photo above, and he wears a patient ID bracelet throughout as well. While the "white light" scene at the end was effective, overall the hospital thing didn't really work for me, and the periodic noise of the machine that goes "ping" was something of a distraction. Who left their cell phone on?

Still and all, The Tempest is a good story well told. It runs at Seattle Shakespeare Company through June 28.

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