|August 23, 2006
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
- Jaime Robles, The Piedmont Post
When the billowing ultramarine silk curtain drops, transforming
itself into a tempestuous sea, what we see is a stage painted
entirely in blue. Its a strange cobalt blue hovering between
the color of sky and distant exotic waters, like the Mediterranean
settling into the summer white shore around Thessaloniki or a
waterfall frozen in its downward tumult in a Norwegian fjord.
What is painted on the surfaces of this blue box, though, are
pages from a journal, the head of da Vincis old man marked
with a grid, figures somersaulting across a dark rectangle, a
globe, and ominous thoughts such as A dream of reason produces
We are on Prosperos Island, in the magician-scholar Prosperos
mind, and in Shakespeares thoughts as he pens what may be
his last play.
The metaphor is fitting and carried throughout The San Francisco
Shakespeare Festivals staging of The Tempest, Shakespeares
mysterious and haunting drama, which plays this weekend at Oaklands
Lakeside Park at Lake Merritt.
Insightfully, director Kenneth Kelleher has the actors doubling
their parts in his interpretation of this most uncanny of Shakespeares
work. Julia Motyka plays both the airy spirit Ariel and Miranda,
Prosperos daughter, and Daveed Diggs plays both the savage
and deformed slave Caliban and Ferdinand, Prince of Naples.
The doubling underlines significant relationships that these
four characters play to the magician and rightful Duke of Milan,
Prospero; as well as reminding us in the audience that often our
own relationships may be patterns we have enacted with others
many times before. Motyka plays an alert and startled Ariel, countering
the part with an eager, girlish Miranda. Diggs is especially brilliant
in his transformations between the starry-eyed young prince and
the snorting and cursing Caliban.
Likewise, the usurpers and betrayersProsperos brother
Antonio (Michael Ray Wisely) and the King of Naples brother Sebastian
(Brian Herndon)find their doubles in the low comedy figures
of the drunken butler Stephano and his goofy jester pal Trinculo.
In both manifestations, they are connivers and betrayers. Ultimately,
both sets will be undone by their own vanity, although the root
of the aristocrats vanity is hid more deeply.
Both Wisely and Herndon put their all into portraying the foolish
conspirators Stephano and Trinculo, and the scenes in which they
plot the overthrow of Prospero with Caliban are both funny and
endearing; their silliness makes possible and acceptable Prosperos
forgiveness of his far more wicked brother Antonio.
The choreography by Mary Beth Cavanaugh aptly places the elemental
spirits, swathed from head to toe in cobalt blue, within each
scene, so their movements, which combine the ungainly with the
measured and graceful, add to the plays unearthly placement.
These are not free spirits but rather manifestations of Prosperos
angers and desire for revenge and recompense. When they are not
part of the action, the spirits lean and collapse onto chairs,
walls and ladders as if they were broken dolls.
An enchanting production for an afternoon in the park.
The Tempest plays Saturday, August 26 and Sunday, August 27,
at 4 p.m. at Oaklands Lakeside Park at Lake Merritt in Duck
Pond Meadow. Information available at www.sfshakes.org