Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Tempest
Round House Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Ro Boddie, Eric Hissom, and Megan Graves
Photo by Scott Suchman
The theater is often a venue for magic, but director Aaron Posner's adaptation of The Tempest, now at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, takes that to an extraordinary level. From the illusions devised by co-adapter and co-director Teller (some of which may leave the audience wondering how a performer is still alive), to the four singers/musicians performing atmospheric songs by Tom Waits, to the gravity-defying choreography by the Pilobolus company, this is a spectacle that demands to be seen.

Round House partnered with Folger Theatre to present this production.

William Shakespeare's story of love, loss, revenge, and forgiveness centers on Prospero (majestic Eric Hissom), who preferred the study of magic to his duties as Duke of Milan, and who was banished by his usurping brother Antonio (Cody Nickell). Many years have passed since Prospero settled on an island imbued with its own magic, and his daughter Miranda (Megan Graves) has never seen a man other than her father. They are attended by Ariel (Nate Dendy), an antic spirit whose illusions often include masterful card tricks, and the mud-smeared beast Caliban (played by Hassiem Muhammad and Ryan Sellers as a two-headed, four-legged, shape-shifting beast that sometimes propels itself with double somersaults).

Daniel Conway's scenic design has the trappings of a Victorian stage, including footlights and painted, two-dimensional scenic panels, with the musicians ensconced on top of the proscenium arch. Three of the four also sing Waits' songs, but Kanysha Williams is the standout with her powerful voice and vibrant music-hall-singer costume (just one of Sarah Cubbage's gorgeously detailed designs). Thom Weaver's lighting design and Andre Pluess' sound design add to the otherworldly effect.

While Hissom dominates the action as Prospero must, all the cast members find a way to reach what seems like the ultimate expression of their roles, then go a little beyond. Graves is charming as an outspoken Miranda, first seen in patched overalls, who discovers what she wants and sets about getting it. Ro Boddie is a sweet-natured Ferdinand, the prince of Naples, who's basically caught up in Prospero's scheme against his uncle, Sebastian (Kevin Mambo), who supports Antonio and wants to destroy his own brother, King Alonso (KenYatta Rogers). Richard B. Henry and especially Kate Eastwood Norris add to the farcical elements as drunken victims of the shipwreck who form an alliance with Caliban.

The most important element of this Tempest is that the pace never slows and the visual excesses never end, from uncanny human figures with animal masks for faces to sudden disappearances and violations of the law of gravity.

The Tempest runs through January 15, 2023, at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda MD. For tickets and information, please call 240-644-1100 or visit

By William Shakespeare
Adapted and directed by Aaron Posner & Teller
Magic by Teller, Johnny Thompson, and Nate Dendy
Featuring the music of Tom Waits
Movement by Pilobolus
Produced in collaboration with Folger Theatre

Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan: Eric Hissom
Miranda, his daughter: Megan Graves
Antonio, his brother, the usurping Duke of Milan: Cody Nickell
Ariel, a Spirit: Nate Dendy
Caliban, a Being/A Mariner: Hassiem Muhammad
Caliban, a Being/A Mariner: Ryan Sellers
Alonso, the King of Naples: KenYatta Rogers
Ferdinand, his son, Prince of Naples: Ro Boddie
Sebastian, his brother: Kevin Mambo
Gondala, a Councilor of Naples: Naomi Jacobson
Trinculo, a Cook of Naples: Richard R. Henry
Stephano, a Baker of Naples: Kate Eastwood Norris
Vulcan (a profusion of percussion): Manny Arciniega
Iris (vocals, accordion): Lizzie Hagstedt
Juno (vocals, percussion): Kanysha Williams
Saturn (bass, vocals): Ian M. Riggs