Tyler Woods has outdone himself with Shakespeare in the Park’s production of “The Tempest” on Paseo. As a result, the entire cast of superlative actors has risen to greater heights creating one of the best Shakespearean productions to grace an Oklahoma City Stage.
An island that is inhabited only by the deposed Duke of Milan, Prospero, and his daughter Miranda, along with magical two servants Caliban and Ariel, becomes the scene of shipwrecked sailors returning from a politically important wedding. Antonio is the usurper of his brother Prospero’s dukedom, and he, along with his friend Alonso, King of Naples, are washed ashore the island Prospero now inhabits. In the party are Sebastian, brother to Alonso and the still loyal Gonzalo. Missing are Alonso’s son, Ferdinand as well as The King’s butler, jester, and the Boatswain. The play begins as each survivor group plots to bring down others as well as survive themselves.
First and foremost, the challenging role of Prospero is in the hands of the very talented W. Jerome Stevenson, taking a break from his position as Artistic Director at the Pollard Theatre. His interpretation of the sorcerer/deposed Duke is mesmerizing. Stevenson draws the audience into the show with ease and delight from the beginning, creating the ideal Prospero character with all his intricacies and individualism revealed in sumptuous entertainment.
His lovely daughter, Miranda, is played by Miranda Summar and her performance is quite lovely. She is believable as Prospero’s daughter projecting a bright and independent attitude that is charming in her extreme and spirited innocence. Ferdinand is played by Nick Hone, a fine actor with flair. The two lovers make a rather adorable couple with nice chemistry lurking behind their loving embrace.
The native inhabitants of the isle are the monstrous but slightly endearing Caliban and the loveable yet mischievous spirit Ariel. These two magic creatures have been enslaved by Prospero who routinely promises freedom. They do his bidding, but in Caliban’s case it is reluctant and he yearns to overthrow Prospero and be free of the mastery. Ariel is portrayed by Mariah Warren with a powerful grace and gypsy voodoo flavor that is enchanting to watch and hear. Caliban is played by Tom Orr with an exciting and demanding brilliance that is both endearing and endangering. These two talents could not have been cast any better; their magic alongside the sorcery of master Prospero is enthralling.
Antonio, Prospero’s brother is aptly played by Jonathan Lynch. He joins his fellow conspirators on the island expecting to find an escape and he does so with some authority and guilt. As King of Naples, Alonso is a take charge character played by Robert Shaun Kilburn who considers the search for his son Ferdinand to be of greatest importance. Sebastian, also a member of the conspiracy and search party, is played Kris Kuss bringing Alonso’s brother into the fold with equal skill. In this group of castaways one also finds the counsellor Gonzalo. He has never been part of the conspiracy and remains loyal to Prospero without knowing what happened to him. His distinctiveness is delineated with sensitive skill by the very talented Stephen Hilton who doubles as Music Director for “The Tempest” as well as designing the sound. His consummate skill as a Shakespearean actor is paramount and his relationship with Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio reveals an interesting underlying command of the situation. His inspired duet with Kayla Booth as Boatswain/Adrian is quite tender and an excellent moment for Booth.
Caliban has teamed up with the mischievous Trinculo, jester to the King, and Stephano, the King’s butler. These two servants to Alonso relish their lack of supervision and spend most of their time passing around the bottle of wine Stephano rescued from the wrecked ship. Befriending Caliban, the three members of this team can’t help but look for trouble. Lia Katherine Ryan plays Stephano with amusing wit and witless abandon, lurching about in a drunken haze. Kevin Cook is wonderful as the somewhat bumbling humorist jester. Their characters bring out the best (and worst) in the monster if the island working hilariously with Orr’s Caliban.
“The Tempest” sets a standard of achievement for Shakespeare performance. And when the leading actor has exceptional talent along with absolute command of the stage and the play as Stevenson’s Prospero does, success is guaranteed. “The Tempest” is, in short, masterful under Woods direction.
“The Tempest” plays through October 26 at the Paseo location for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park. While curtain is at 8:00 pm evenings and 2:00 pm Sunday matinees, it is an excellent idea to arrive ensuring a good parking space near the theatre. The theatre is located in the offices for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park at 2920 Paseo. For tickets and information visit www.okshakes.org or call the box office at 405-235-3700.