Curtain Call: The Tempest
During the opening-night performance of the Actors' Theatre production of The Tempest by William Shakespeare, we witnessed one of those moments that can happen only in a live, outdoor performance.
Cloudy and cool, the evening threatened worse with occasional light mists of rain - noticeable, but never enough to stop the play. During the wedding masque of Act IV, as the spirits of Prospero's island pay homage to nature and to the play's lovers, Miranda and Ferdinand, the misting increased just as Ceres (Danielle Mann), goddess of plenty, recited, "... upon my flowers/ Diffusest honey drops, refreshing showers ..."
That serendipitous convergence of Shakespeare's timeless words with Schiller Park's momentary weather won't likely happen again, but there are other reasons to see this Tempest.
The play, generally thought to be among Shakespeare's last, tells the tale of Prospero, the Duke of Milan deposed by his treacherous brother Antonio. Prospero spends a dozen years exiled on an island, home-schooling his daughter Miranda, teaching himself magic and setting the stage for his revenge, his reinstatement and this play.
Director Pamela Hill doesn't avoid the common misstep of allowing the fury of the titular storm to drown out the first scene's gallows humor and wordplay. But things recover quickly.
Aside from a few barely distracting verbal stumbles, Jim Azelvandre makes for a commanding Prospero, manipulating circumstances with his magical powers, forgiving those who have wronged him and then having the wisdom to know when to step aside.
Angela Henderson gives Miranda the right combination of sophistication and naivete. As her suitor Ferdinand, Matt Proctor has the tousled good looks to justify Miranda's admiration plus a similar blend of the wise and the wide-eyed.
Mark Mann lends his accustomed dignity to Prospero's servant Caliban. Zach Hartley's Trinculo and Ted Amore's Stephano rarely let the slapstick get out of hand. Amore makes simultaneously acting drunk and reciting Shakespeare look easy.
Respectable jobs are done by the more serious villains, Ross Shirley's Sebastian and Benjamin Gorman's Antonio, the pair plotting to murder their king Alonso (Ben Hackney).
One true test of any Tempest is the beginning of Act V, when the "airy spirit" Ariel quietly makes the case that Prospero should forgive and free his captives. Angela Barch-Shamell's Ariel talks Prospero down with her crackling reed of a voice, shaming him back into his own humanity.
She pleads their case, telling him "That if you now beheld them, your affections/ Would become tender." When he doubts her, she responds, "Mine would, sir, were I human."
That is a moment of stage magic you should be able to witness at every performance.
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When: Through Aug. 2
Where: Schiller Park Amphitheater, German Village