Arts and Entertainment

‘Tempest’ is a great show, but wear long johns | Ferry Home Companion

Seventy years ago at Northwestern University, Professor Bergen Evans used to insist that his students read the King James version of the Bible and the works of Shakespeare while taking his sophomore English class.

Not that he was a Bible thumper or devoted to these words above all literature, but rather that he felt they contained a greater treasure of literary reference than any other words.

Last weekend, attending the marvelous reprise of “The Tempest” at the 10th anniversary of Island Stage Left on Wold Road, we were reminded of Evans’ assignment as a marvelous group of actors, directed by Helen Machin-Smith, outdid themselves on the newly reconstructed stage.

Just as “The Tempest” takes place on an enchanted island, so is the Wold Road setting enchanted during summer performances with the action taking place against the stunning backdrop of the summer sky as it approaches sunset and dusk. (Cooling dusk, I must add, for those who didn’t wear long johns and carry blankets. The cast was so active and physical bounding and dancing through their barefoot paces, that the audience felt it must be warmer than the chill they probably felt.)

There was no mistake about the sounds, however. Having endured the original “Tempest” 10 years ago and enjoyed it as a great new venue, I couldn’t believe the clarity of the Bard’s classic words as they were flawlessly spoken by pros Daniel Mayes as Prospero, Kevin Loomis as Caliban ... and spoken and sung by the third amazing Equity actor, Khanh Doan. As the Spirit Ariel, her lithe dancing and writhing presence was as close to making magic believable that you ever will see.

Of course, director Machin-Smith’s sound effects, starting with the storm which Prospero magically produced at the outset, and continuing through the entire production with every brushed-up Shakespearean word so clearly spoken by our local talented thespians (that even us with hearing aids hardly needed them), were a major improvement over the 1998 production.

Kudos to Sylvie Davidson as Miranda, Ann Cozzalio as Gonzala, and Theo Pratt as Sebastian, who were treading the boards for the first time with Stage Left. They joined with Stage Left veterans and supporting cast members James Krall as Antonio, Dorian Oliver as Alonso, Garth McArdle as Trinculo, Patti Bair as Stephanie and Michelle Lunicke as Boatswain to make this an evening to remember ... “as strange a maze as e’er men trod.”

P.S. You might find the wooded venue at Roche Harbor a bit cozier but not too darn hot.

— Contact Howard Schonberger at 378-5696 or hschonberger@sanjuanjournal.com

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