Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
For those newer Shakespeare fans, The Tempest tells the story of Prospero, the former Duke of Milan, who is exiled to a remote island with his daughter Miranda. Using his magical powers and the assistance of the spirit Ariel, Prospero conjures a storm that brings his treacherous brother Antonio, the King of Naples, and other noblemen to the island. Through various magical interventions, he seeks to exact revenge on his enemies while also setting the stage for his triumphant return to Milan. The play explores themes of betrayal, power, and the possibility of redemption.
Robert Cuccioli approaches the role of Prospero with a traditional attitude and aspect, but his unparalleled gravitas is simply spectacular. It is legitimately frightening when Cuccioli speaks of using his magic to open up graves and wake their sleepers. Sarah Gliko puts a more unusual spin on Prospero's favorite servant Ariel, imbibing the airy spirit with real dignity and desperation. That decision and Gliko's flawless execution immediately elevate the entire production. To contrast that seriousness, Billie Wyatt and John Austin play the young lovers Miranda and Ferdinand with a playfulness that borders on silly. There is real joy in the connection they have with each other and the audience.
Jones and his creative team effectively create a wondrous and dreamlike space for the talented ensemble. The set design by Steve TenEyck is evocative without being overwrought. TenEyck set and Eric T. Haugen's dramatic lighting set the mood for a mystical adventure. Beautifully imagined and richly detailed, the costume designs by Lisa Zinni are top notch.
The Tempest is one of Shakespeare's greatest plays and PSF's production brings out all the best elements of this important and beloved work. Under Jones' direction the talented ensemble reveal both the ample humor and profound mystery of this classic work. I am anxious to see that same ensemble will performing Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, which will be running in repertory with this most excellent Tempest.
The Tempest runs through August 6, 2023, at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, Main Stage, DeSales University, 2755 Station Ave., Center Valley PA. For tickets and information, please visit pashakespeare.org, call 610-282-WILL , or visit the PSF box office at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts.