Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
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 www.roundhousetheatre.org.
By William Shakespeare