Clear Creek Community Theatre’s production of “The Tempest” is a simple and stylish show that highlights the power of forgiveness.
Believed to be the final play Shakespeare wrote alone, “The Tempest” is a dense and often difficult play with three distinct but interwoven plot lines. There is the romance between Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, and Ferdinand, the slaves Caliban and Ariel’s attempts to free themselves from Prospero, and the machinations of Antonio, brother of Prospero, who continually plots for power. Linking all three is Prospero’s use of magic and power to manipulate others, his quest for revenge at being banished and his ultimate forgiveness of his brother and those who plotted against him.
Each director brings their own take to “The Tempest” and through the years, it’s been used as a vehicle for investigating feminism, post-colonialism and sexuality. Giving rise to criticisms for the play’s representation of women, people of color, and worst of all, for being boring.
Director Robert Meek sidesteps these issues thanks to clever casting and solid theater craft. The show is well paced with good performances that make it interesting and enjoyable to the end. His decision to have women play Prospero and Ariel and to have a white actor play Caliban bring a different energy to the show and made it more focused on revenge, freedom and forgiveness rather than power dynamics relating to sex or race.
His clear vision for the set, music and sound effects, as well as lighting designed by John Meek, and costumes give the show a visual flair that bodes well for future productions under his direction. There were many well-executed moments but one of the most poignant scenes is a simple black and white feather fall to the floor to indicate a promise kept, a strange friendship honored and freedom hard won.
Minor quibbles would be the slight overuse of a distorted sound effect and the use of the title “Duke” for Prospera. In her 2010 film, Julie Taymor cast Helen Mirren as Duchess Prospera and incorporated a backstory that amplified the play’s discussion of good and bad witchcraft. More information about Meek’s backstory for his Prospera and her world, perhaps in the playbill, would have stopped me constantly wondering why everyone called her Duke rather than Duchess.
As Prospera, Janna Grubs impresses with her stillness and quiet power. Lauren McGuire acts, sings and dances her heart out as the eager to please Ariel. Ian Lewis throws himself around the stage with such careless abandon as Caliban it is easy to feel the pain in his plight.
Micaela Cornett’s Miranda is a glowing Earth angel who no man could resist, while her love Ferdinand is played with sweet devotion by Roger Cochrane.
Joel Kumahata and Matt Phillips have plenty of foolish fun as Stephano and Trinculo in a series of well choreographed scenes.
Max Wingert’s handsome Antonio makes treachery seem appealing, while Edmund Pantuliano’s Alonso’s grief for his missing son is touching. There are also good performances from Robert Crotteau, Willy Devlin and Steven Sarp as noble men and Elizabeth Richardson, Indigo Monsanto and Angelica Binetti as island inhabitants and goddesses.
Robert Meek’s clarity of vision, simple and stylish take on a dense and difficult play, his ability to get his actors moving about and fired up, and his visual flair make this production the stuff a theater critic’s dreams are made of.