Since 2005, the Lit Moon Theatre Company has produced three distinct interpretations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Last Friday’s was a comic one that director John Blondell said was designed to emphasize the play’s “fantasy, playfulness, exuberance, and its hope for a happy ending.” Lit Moon’s entertaining and quirky theatrical storm was dubbed Blue Tempest.
In the beginning, there was the gargle. When the curtain rose on musical director James Connolly playing the banjo, the sparkly spirit of Ariel (Marie Ponce) crossed the stage gargling a cup of water-theatrical shorthand for the act of creating the storm by which The Tempest‘s cast is whirled onto an island. There we meet Prospero (Stanley Hoffmann), the right duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda (Erin Brehm). In a monologue, Prospero reveals to his daughter his history as the former Duke of Milan. As castaways, they landed on this island uninhabited by mortals but ruled by spirits. But with a clever hand, Prospero succeeded in enslaving the spirits and forcing them to his services. Now, Prospero prepares to wreak revenge upon his shipwrecked guests: Gonzalo the honest old counselor (Hoffmann), Alonso the King of Naples (Brehm), his brother Antonio (Victoria Finlayson) who usurped Prospero’s throne, and Alonso’s sons Ferdinand and Sebastian, both played by Kate Louise Paulsen. In the end, Prospero’s vengeance is reasoned into forgiveness by his loyal Ariel, and the reconciliation with his brother and Alonso is realized through Miranda and Ferdinand’s spirit-aided love at first sight.
The interchanging of roles among the actors suits this Blue Tempest, for it continually recalls the havoc of Prospero’s revenge and the tempest he draws everyone into. So where’s the comedy? We have Alonso’s jester Trinculo (Brehm), butler Stephano (Hoffmann), Prospero’s slave Caliban (Finlayson), and Ariel to thank for the many laughs. The playful and ridiculous natures of these characters keep the play’s severe intent and principles of forgiveness, power, and love in a bearable perspective. These performances are the most entertaining and least conventional, especially those of Finlayson as Caliban and Ponce as Ariel.
This year’s Blue Tempest whirled with creativity and the immense skill of actors who can switch not just player roles but also gender roles quickly and naturally. All six performers, including James Connolly on banjo, piano, and percussion, delivered impeccable performances.