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A CurtainUp Connecticut Review
The Tempest

"The Tempest is a specimen of the purely romantic drama, in which the interest is not historical, or dependent upon fidelity of portraiture, or the natural connection of events – but is a birth of the imagination, and rests only on the cooptation and union of the elements granted to, or assumed by the poet."— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

" Oh, Wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is!
Oh, brave new world, that has such
people in’t!"
Miranda, Tempest, Act V. Another famous line by the Bard borrowed for the title of a novel; in this instance by Aldous Huxley.
There’s some impressive stagecraft currently on view at Hartford Stage, which should especially appeal to those for whom the “show” is the thing rather the play. There IS a play on view as well —, Shakespeare’s last, The Tempest, and the director is Darko Tresnjak, making his official debut as artistic director of the theater.

Tresnjak is noted for, among many other accomplishments, a bold visual style. He has obviously encouraged his creative team Alexander Dodge (scenic design) and Fabio Toblini (costume design) to spare no expenses on this premiere production. The result is a bewitching display of visual fantasy that works for the most part, but occasionally veers into self-conscious chic.

The basic set is a large white circular thrust stage covered in lines from the play written in blue ink. This pattern is repeated in costumes for Caliban and Ariel creating a kind of “tailored” look.

This is not to suggest that the play is overwhelmed by these aesthetics, though it does have to work hard to stay even. Luckily the playwright may have envisioned the day when his works would be “embellished” and wrote nothing but masterpieces. Director Tresnjak has cast the production with strong actors and has coaxed performances from them that do more than adequate justice to the play.

The Tempest combines many of Shakespeare’s familiar themes: shipwreck, exile, magic, sibling rivalry, first love and even mistaken identity (in this case a man for a fish!) Its main theme, embodied in the character of Prospero (Daniel Davis), is the conflict between revenge and forgiveness.

After bering usurped as the Duke of Milan by his unscrupulous brother Antonio (Jonathan Lincoln Fried), Prospero was set adrift in a small boat with his young daughter Miranda (Sara Topham). When they find themselves shipwrecked on a strange island, Prospero uses his magic to rule over the only two other souls there: Caliban (Ben Cole), a wild creature and son of the witch Sycorax, and Ariel (Shirine Babb),a spirit.

Twelve years later Prospero uses his magic, to shipwreck on his island a vessel carrying Antonio and his co-conspirator, Alonso (Christopher Randolph) the King of Naples, and members of their court. Once on the island they are in Prospero’s power and he is forced to decide between redemption and revenge. The path to forgiveness is made easier when Miranda spies Ferdinand, Alonso’s son (he’s one of the first men other than her father and Caliban she has ever seen) A Romeo and Juliet relationship blossoms, and the play heads in the direction of political and family rapprochement.

There are classic comic interludes most notable being an encounter between Trinculo (Bruce Turk), Stephano (Michael Spencer-Davis) and Caliban in which all three become confused between man, fish and a large number of legs. Davis makes a fine, noble Prospero and delivers his lines clearly and with considerable passion. Fried is quite effective as the evil (and unrepentant) Antonio. Others who shine are Randolph as Alonso and David Barlow as Sebastian, his ambitious son.

Most impressive was the work of young actor, Cole, as the tormented Caliban who supplied the emotional storm the play needs. William Patrick Riley and Topham were charming as the young lovers even if she did look a bit over the 15 she’s supposed to be. Was my math right?

Tresnjak and his team and cast can be proud of their work. Lighting sets and costumes were executed with first rate skill. I’m not sure, however, what the ballet including Cirque du Soliel acrobatics by a buff and athletic Joshua Dean had to do with anything.

The Tempest By William Shakespeare
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Cast: Daniel Davis (Prospero), Shrine Babb (Ariel), Ben Cole (Caliban), Sara Topham (Miranda,) Christopher Randolph (Alonzo), William Patrick Riley (Ferdinand), David Barlow (Sebastian), Jonathan Lincoln Fried (Antonio), Noble Shropshire (Gonzalo), Alex Saffer (Francisco), Bruce Turk (Trincolo) Michael Spencer Davis (Stephano) Jane Cracovaner, Joshua Dean, Annastasia Duffany, Jillian Greenberg, Mark Adrian Ford (Spirits, Gods and Goddesses.)
Scenic design: Alexander Dodge
Costume design: Fabio Toblini
Lighting design: Michael Chybowski
Sound design and original music: David Budries, Nathan A. Roberts
May 10, 2012 to June 10, 2012 at Hrtford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford
Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission
Performances: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees: Sundays and selected Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2.
Tickets are $26.50 to $90.50.For reservations and specific schedule of performances, call the box office at (860) 527-5151 or visit
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