The more you see (and hear) him, the more you love William Shakespeare, and the presentation by Olney Theatre Center in its outdoor arena will intensify your ardor.
Olney's Tempest is a delightful frolic for actors and audience members alike, and although the show is billed as best for those ages eight and above, some who appeared several years younger were spied enjoying themselves as much as their parents.
To listen to the words of the master accompanied by nature's nightly medley of the bugs is a heavenly experience although evil spirits lurk nearby.
The setting is the sea and an island where Prospero (Craig Wallace), a little too boisterous at times, has been marooned with his daughter, Miranda (Leah Filley), for 12 years, after his brother, Antonio (Paul Morella), and the King of Naples, Alonso (Ian LeValley), colluded to rob Prospero of his kingdom of Milan and banish father and daughter to the neverland.
Prospero uses special powers gained from reading all the books supplied in their drift away boat by his kind counselor, Gonzalo (Alan Wade) to craft a "tempest" and bring those to shore who done him wrong. (You see what books can do!)
Knowing I loved my books, he furnish'd me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom
It's payback time.
A mystical spirit, Ariel (Julie-Ann Elliott), visible only to Prospero (and the audience), a standout on stage, flits and floats like a fairy in her lighted dress, an ethereal presence who assists Prospero. Her splendid red-winged costume (by Pei Lee) gave us to know Ariel was soon going to take flight to freedom.
On the set are big, billowy cloths which hang floor to "ceiling" stage at angles like sails on the ship.
The crew, all men in black, heave back and forth on the floating boat floor while the ship wrecks, stirring motions of seasickness among observers on land.
Stacked large white umbrellas shield stage exits as the backdrop which change color to effectively match the next scene's mood.
What is Shakespeare without a myriad of characters to keep your mind swirling? And a little love?
One character with a little sudden love in his heart is King Alonso's son, Ferdinand (Alexander Korman) who becomes only the second man Miranda has ever laid eyes on, and quite naturally, it is love at first sight. This is Shakespeare!
Despite the crimes committed against him, Prospero resists vengeance and chooses to forgive (and maybe, not forget) the wrongful acts committed against him and his daughter, reminding us 400 years later, the importance of overlooking imaginary and real slights we experience in everyday life and the benefits we gain once we delete the "hanging on."
Let us not burden our remembrances with a heaviness that's gone
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep
Before the play begins, strolling minstrels play guitar and horn while they sing (with some audience participation), "I Can See Clearly Now," and "Don't Stop Believin'" which enter the script nicely later on when the show may stop momentarily for necessary equipment adjustments.
Elisheba Ittoop with Elvin J. Crespo and Will Rosas made the
storm crashing and gnashing sounds which cackle and bring the bad guys to shore with loud and lifelike effects, complemented by tiny raindrops which kept falling on our heads.
The play is a quick two+ hours which breezes by rapidly, made more charming by outside freedom.
Directing is Jason King Jones, the associate director and director of education at Olney. Other members of the creative team are Charlie Calvert, scenic designer; Sonya Dowhaluk, lighting designer; and Casey Kaleba, fight choreographer, all to be heartily applauded with the remaining cast members, Ryan Mitchell, Paul Morella, Jacob Mundell, Christopher Richardson, Adam Turck, and Dan Van Why.
Composing half the cast are National Players veterans who are the mentors of current National Players ("America's longest running touring company") who appear in younger roles and are on tour in celebration of the Players' 66th year. The National Players are based at the Olney.
The program includes a pictorial directory complete with titles and relationships to simplify comprehension.
It's believed that The Tempest is the last play William Shakespeare wrote independently, and is considered one of his finest.
What: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, through Sunday, August 3, 2014
Where: The outdoor Root Family Stage at Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832
How much: Tickets are $20, and there is no charge for children under age 11.
You may bring lawn chairs, refreshments, bug repellant.
Refreshments: Available for purchase
Parking: Abundant, free, and on-site
For more information: 301-924-3400
For more reviews of The Tempest and other plays, go to DC Metro Theater Arts.