Friday, August 8, 2014

Who’s Who and What’s What in "The Tempest"

Magic, Music, Movement and More in Creative Adaptation

Nate Dendy (Ariel), Tom Nelis (Prospero), Charlotte Graham (Miranda). Photo: The Smith Center/Geri Kodey

This imaginative adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic sets the play in a world evocative of a traveling tent show of the 1930s—and comes to life with the magic of Teller, well-known as the silent partner in the Penn & Teller duo—the haunting ballads of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan and the singular choreography of the Pilobolus dance company.

The Tempest begins with a raging storm that capsizes the ship of Alonso, King of Naples, on the royal party’s return from the marriage of Alonso’s daughter to the King of Tunis. The storm separates the ship’s passengers and they wash up on the shore of a mysterious island, confused yet unharmed.
This tempest is not a mere act of nature, but instead a bit of sorcery at the hand of Prospero, who lives on the island with his young daughter, Miranda.

Horrified by the wreckage, Miranda asks her father why he would cast such a spell and Prospero tells her the story of betrayal that brought father and daughter to the deserted island. Prospero was once Duke of Milan, but his brother, Antonio, grew jealous of Prospero’s power and teamed up with Alonso to overthrow him. Not wanting to murder Prospero, Antonio and Alonso threw the duke and the infant Miranda into a rundown boat and pushed them out to sea. Luck, along with some supplies given to them by a kind noblewoman named Gonzala, sustained father and daughter until they washed up on the island. Now, after 12 long years, fate has given Prospero the perfect opportunity to seek his revenge: the ship carrying all of his enemies—including the treacherous Antonio, now Duke of Milan.

Ariel is an island spirit indebted to Prospero and helped capsize the ship. Prospero asks Ariel to next use his powers of invisibility in order to manipulate the ship’s stranded passengers. In exchange for Ariel’s service, Prospero promises to set the spirit free after the revenge plot is complete. Ariel’s first task is to lure Ferdinand, Alonso’s son, to Miranda. Ariel does this and Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love at first sight.

On another part of the island, Alonso, Antonio, Gonzala and Alonso’s brother, Sebastian, search for the missing Ferdinand. Alonso is distraught over losing his son, but Sebastian and Antonio see Ferdinand’s absence as an opportunity to gain power. If Ferdinand is dead, Alonso’s throne would likely fall to Sebastian, since the king’s daughter is so far away. Sebastian and Antonio make a plan to murder Alonso.

On yet another part of the island, another murder plot takes shape. Caliban, Prospero’s slave, enlists Stephano and Trinculo—both passengers from the capsized ship—to help him murder Prospero in exchange for rule of the island. But the conniving threesome is never quite sober enough to put the plot into action and proves easy prey to Prospero and Ariel’s tricks.

After Ferdinand proves his loyalty to Miranda through hard labor, Prospero allows the lovers to marry. The wedding ends abruptly, however, when Prospero decides to deal with Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo once and for all. In a final trick, Prospero has Ariel tempt the drunkards with fine clothes and then conjure up wolves to chase them away.

Prospero finally decides to make amends with those who betrayed him after realizing the depth of Alonso’s despair over the loss of his son. He reunites Alonso (who begs for Prospero’s forgiveness for his corrupt deeds) with Ferdinand, thanks Gonzala for her kindness and even forgives Caliban—but remains cold to Sebastian and Antonio, who show little repentance. Prospero then agrees to retire to Milan, where he can see his daughter officially married to Ferdinand and lead a peaceful life with no more magic. Prospero keeps his promise and frees Ariel and then, in an epilogue, appeals to the audience to forgive his own trickery by applauding.

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