Full of magic, with its fairies and intrigue The Tempest is unlike any other Shakespeare play, except for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A true sea adventure that Shakespeare surely utilized for The Tempest was Merchant Sylvester Jourdain’s “A Discovery of the Bermudas, otherwise called the Ile of Divels.” Published in 1610, this was the summary account of Jourdain’s expedition to Virginia that resulted in he and his crew mates of the Sea Venture being shipwrecked on the far Bermudas in 1609. Jourdain’s account was published in 1610. Some believed in the strange monsters described by the sailors. This surely was of great interest to Shakespeare, who published his play in 1612.
The Tempest’s deliberate shipwreck through-story has at least 17 characters, among them Prospero the Duke of Milan, his daughter Miranda, and her love interest Prince Ferdinand of Naples. Along with a queen, their servants, and sailors they go overboard in a violent storm conjured by Prospero and land on a strange island. They will meet two creative characters of imagination: Ariel (good) and Caliban (bad). Ariel, a sprite, is an invisible supernatural servant of the demi-god, Prospero. Caliban, the monster is another of his servants. Prospero and Ariel control the action of the play.
A superb job is done by all the actors under the wonderful direction of Alex Burns, Quintessence Theatre Director, who mixes poetics and mayhem. At Quintessence Theatre, as in other venues, some actors do double or triple duty as people and spirits. There’s magic and mystery as wonderfully costumed characters come alive to dance, sing, cavort, wrestle, draw swords, threaten violence, and show mercy. With all the exotic costumery, singing and dancing and swords, the show is a charmer.
The stage, a well thought out raised circular space with trap doors in the floor, is near enough that everyone can see and hear what’s going on, no matter where they’re sitting. The costuming is brilliantly imaginative, and the action moves to the accompaniment of original music by David Cope.
My favorite tune from The Tempest goes:
Where the bee sucks, there suck I,
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily, shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
[Quintessence Theatre, 7170 Germantown Ave] March 1-26, 2023; quintessencetheatre.org
Jered McLenigan* Stephano / Gonzalo / Ceres.
Hillary Parker* Antonia / Trinculo / Juno.
Lawrence Pressman* Prospero.
Gregory Isaac. Caliban / Alonso.
Pat Moran. Ariel / Boatswain / Iris.
Langston Reese. Ferdinand / Sebastian / Spirit.
Marielle Issa. Miranda / Mariner / Spirit.
Brooke Behmke* Prospero Cover.
* denotes Actors’ Equity