The Tempest Theatre Review - Theatre Unleashed Takes on Shakespeare



Theatre Unleashed, “L.A.’s newest theatre troupe” has transformed the 60-seat Studio/Stage on Western Avenue into a mystic island where the tale of Shakespeare’s The Tempest unfolds.

Sarah French & Ted Heyck in "The Tempest"

The Tempest is the story of Prospero (Ted Heyck), ousted Duke of Milan who was banished to a remote island more than a dozen years ago by his brother Antonio (Phillip Kelly), with the help of Alonso (Paul Bond), the King of Naples. With only the company of his daughter, Miranda (Natalie Fields), and two servants, the mischievous spirit Ariel (Sarah French) and Caliban (Jenn Scuderi), a deformed creature of the island, Prospero learned the mysteries of the island and grow to become a powerful sorcerer. Now the time has come when Prospero will use his supernatural powers over land and sea to shipwreck a vessel carrying all of his life long enemies. With the help of his servant spirit Ariel, Prospero manipulates and entices each other survivors into his tangled web of revenge and retribution.

Ted Heyck (l) and Jacob Smith in "The Tempest"

His first order of business is to bring forth the Prince of Naples, Ferdinand (Jacob Smith), who prompt falls, hopelessly, reciprocally in love with Miranda. Alonso, along with his company of men, wanders the wilds of the island, grief-stricken with the belief that his son is drowned. Distracted by sadness, the king cannot see Antonio trying to entice Sebastian (Jim Martyka), the King’s brother Sebastian, to overthrow him in the same fashion that he himself overthrew Prospero.

Paul Bond & Sarah French in "The Tempest"

Meanwhile, bitter Caliban happens upon two more shipwreck strangers, Trincula and Stephano (Vannesa Hurd and Sean Fitzgerald). Upon the first taste of Stephano’s liquor, Caliban decides he has found a new master and the two drunkenly plot to kill Prospero and take the island over as their own domain.

Obedient, omnipotent Ariel sees and hears all and reports everything back to Prospero.

The Tempest is a much more about angst than it is about dramatic tension in regard to driving the story forward. This production was good. Not inspired, but good. The play opens with a really interesting movement piece featuring a cloth drop as large as the stage, and we watch the tempest itself come to life as the performers beneath the drop created the tumultuous, angry ocean as sound of thunder and lightning cues grow to a fever pitch. Unfortunately, the rest of the production did not make good on that exciting, visually strong opening.

Jenn Scuderi as Caliban in "The Tempest"

Shakespeare was an ambitious choice for the company’s second production. The challenge of Shakespeare that it is poetry that the performer must make sound like conversation, except when it is supposed to sound like poetry. And while most of the company was able to make those shifts invisibly and there were times when I felt like I was listening to lines. Jenn Scuderi was the only real stand out performance for me. Her great command of the language infused her performance with consistency and believability. The way she met the challenge of creating the miserable creature Caliban through movement and voice was impressive.

Vanessa Hurd & Sean Fitzgerald in "The Tempest"

Overall, this production really nailed the comic elements of this play. The buffoonish trio of Trincula/Stepahno/Caliban was rich and playful with physical comedy that was truly well executed. Likewise with the duo of Antonio and Sebastian, you could set watch your that perfect comic timing. Well Done.

Ariel (Sarah French) watches among the Kuroko

I also really like director Jeff Soroka’s choice to use traditionally Japanese Kuroko (stagehands dressed in black from head to toe). The ever-present spirits were another very strong visually choice as “manifestations of Prospero’s magic”. Collectively, they created an ominous presence that magnified Prospero’s power even when he was not on stage, particularly when Ariel interacts with them. Really nice choice.

Again, not a bad outing for a young theatre troupe such as Theatre Unleashed, and certainly a strong effort for Shakespeare. I’m looking forward to seeing how Soroka and Unleashed will challenge themselves next.

The Tempest runs from September 5th through September 28, 2008.

Thursday – Saturday @ 8PM
Sunday @ 7PM

Studio/Stage
520 N. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90004

For info please call 818-849-4039


www.theatreunleashed.com

Photo Credit: Christopher Cortez

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