Review: The Tempest


Kerry Cahill plays Caliban in The Tempest. - EMILY APPLE
  • Kerry Cahill plays Caliban in The Tempest.

In the field at The Old Ironworks, actors clustered in the oblong outline of a boat hoisted New Orleans architectural pieces — shutters, a bracket — creating the illusion of a ship wildly rising and plunging on rough seas. The passengers are caught up in a storm conjured by Prospero’s enslaved spirit Ariel. From his island exile, Prospero is orchestrating a return to his usurped dukedom in Italy in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

The ship’s rough ride provides a promising start to In Good Company and Promethean Theatre Company’s outdoor production (running July 16-18), and it is a good example of the production’s efficient use of spare props and a minimal set. But once the shipwrecked passengers came ashore, The Tempest subsided considerably, and though the acting was generally assured, the production lulled at times, losing the sense of turmoil in the work’s many hatched efforts at claiming or reclaiming power and dominion.

Prospero (John Ammerman) and daughter Miranda (Helen Blaise Lanigan) were long ago stranded on the island, after being set adrift at sea in a scheme crafted by his brother Antonio (Casey Groves). Prospero gained power over the island’s inhabitants, including Ariel (Kathleen McManus) and Caliban (Kerry Cahill), who bitterly resents being both dispossessed and enslaved. Ammerman offered a confident and graceful performance, but his even keel seemed too sedate for the work’s driving force.

Ariel (Kathleen McManus) and Prospero (John Ammerman) confer in The Tempest. - STEPHEN SPEHAR
  • Ariel (Kathleen McManus) and Prospero (John Ammerman) confer in The Tempest.

The shipwrecked passengers include Antonio, Alonso (George Sanchez), the king of Naples, and the king’s brother Sebastian (Rachel Whitman Groves). Antonio prods Sebastian to attempt to usurp Alonso’s power, and their conspiracy provides some of the production’s feistier moments, particularly as Casey menacingly projects Antonio’s appetite for power.

Cahill’s enraged Caliban also added entertaining vigor and rage, even when enticed into drunkenness by Steve Spehar’s boisterously intoxicated Stephano, whose clowning antics added welcome energy.

Prospero works to restore his and Miranda’s former royal position in Milan. She has grown up on the island with very little exposure to other people, and she is immediately smitten with Ferdinand (David Williams), the son of Alonso, the first man her age she has met.

Ratty Scurvics provided fitting original music. Costumes were inconsistent in style and approach: Ferdinand seemed like he had been shipwrecked at Old Navy, Miranda wore a retro-styled pink dress and Caliban wore strands of knotted ropes, suggesting his bondage.

Under Rebecca Frank’s direction, the acting was competent, but the work too often slipped into passive tones. There were many good components, but they didn’t come together in a powerful way.

July 16-18
The Tempest
7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Old Iron Works, 612 Piety St.
Tickets $15

Add a comment