By William Shakespeare
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring Robert Floyd, Robert Wright, Samantha O’Hare, Rebecca Gallarza
Valencia Character Company, Orlando FL
If you were disappointed by the recent big name Tempest reading, drop by this nifty little show. The staging is far superior; the actors know their lines, and you’re not counting on the comic relief character to pull the show though. You’ve seen The Tempest somewhere, I’m sure – a ship full of Milanese nobles wash up on the shore of banished Prospero’s (Floyd) Uncharted Island. It’s no accident, he drew them in magically to get revenge, and maybe get off this godforsaken three day cruise. His daughter Miranda (Gallarza) has never seen another human, as all their servant are spirits and demons. Earthy Caliban (Wright) hauls firewood and looks like a deranged Muppet speaking Klingon, and wispy Ariel (O’Hare) makes herself invisible and herds the castaways into whatever plot chute they need to visit. Not bad for bamboo technology.
Director DiDonna takes this perennial favorite and decorates it with a mystical, satanic island vibe. Drummers lurk in the dark corners of the theater as Ariel and her flirty companions restrain and compel the reluctant Milanese to sort of complications Elizabethans thought hilarious. The impenetrable humor of half a millennia ago fades into new age mysticism, and we experience a magical transformation as the cast sheds bits of poorly sewn on costume trim.
Floyd’s Prospero is fully in control of the story at all times, even off stage. He and Ariel might well be astral plane lovers, while Gallarza’s Miranda fawn hopelessly over Ferdanand (Freddy Ruiz). Prospero’s brother Alonso is recast as a female (Marcie Schwalm), and John Kelly plays himself as the Pangloss-ish Gonzalo. The best roles, of course, go to Stephano (Moe Fowler) and Trinculo (Eric Fagn) whose drunken escapades with Caliban liven up the second act.
Combine mysterious language, awkward sexual situations, and big name public domain author, and you get the modern cannon of mutable Shakespeare. Sometimes the settings are shifted from Verona to New Orleans or Bohemia to outer space, and sometimes you wonder “What they where thinking?” and sometimes you experience magic. This low budget part student, part pro waves a wand on the source material and takes your breath away.
For more information on Valencia Character Company, please visit http://valenciacc.edu/theater/