Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Tempest
New Mexico Shakespeare Festival
Review by Carole C. Sullivan

Also see Carole's recent review of The Outsider


The Cast
Photo by Broken Chain Photography
I love outdoor Shakespeare in the summer. It is a time-honored tradition of the theatre. The New Mexico Shakespeare Festival is growing up. Beginning as an offshoot of The Vortex Theatre, the NMSF is now an independent non-profit organization, and the city of Albuquerque has committed to supporting this endeavor.

I believe The Tempest is my favorite Shakespeare play. It is hard to categorize this play in one genre; it is part tragedy, part comedy, and part romance. I've read that scholars have created a new Shakespearean category just for The Tempest: the romance (not to be confused with the more modern genre of the same name). I like that categorization because it allows for the juxtaposition of both tragic and comedic elements in the same play while also broadening the scope of the plot with magic.

Probably his last solo play, Shakespeare's The Tempest tells a story of magic, revenge and love. Prospero, sorcerer and rightful Duke of Milan, along with his daughter Miranda has lived on an island for many years since his position was usurped by his brother Antonio. Then, as Antonio's ship passes near the island one day, Prospero conjures up a terrible storm. All the players of Prospero's betrayal are brought to the magical island to be dealt with by the sorcerer and his magical beings, the Sprite, Ariel, and Caliban his slave.

This island is no Forest of Arden or even a fairyland of A Midsummer Nights Dream–there is real magic here and Prospero appears to be seeking revenge for his usurping. But Miranda is mesmerized by seeing other humans for the first time and her innocence tempers the action with love.

Veteran director Paul Ford brings a light touch to this Tempest. He has been a pillar of Albuquerque's theatre scene for decades. He is a director, an actor, a longtime lecturer in the University of New Mexico's Department of Theatre and Dance, and the founding artistic director of the long-running Theatre-in-the-Making. He continues to act around town; there are few aspects of our city's live drama scene he has not touched.

His direction moves the play with a swift but light pace through all the action on a unit set with only suggested levels and nooks. Costumes are basic but adequate to the characters, and props are minimal. The cast seems relaxed and to be enjoying their work; everyone seems to know what their task is. This is truly an ensemble labor of love.

Owen Reid Callis as Prospero anchors the production with a commanding physical presence and a perfect deep and sonorous voice for a Sorcerer. Kendra Rickert as Ariel is very effective; her diction, singing and dancing are excellent. She moves her "spirit corps" well through all the action and is a strong partner for Prospero in his quest. Ed Chavez is a very physical Caliban but seems to be missing some of his humanity in his interactions with Prospero. Here, the swift pace of the production may be at odds with taking the time for moments of understanding among these three pivotal characters.

Colyn Morris and Emiliano Aguilar are perfect as the young lovers, Miranda and Ferdinand, respectively. I did want more shock and awe from Miranda as she encounters this "Brave new world that has such people in it." Parker Owen as Stephano and Thompson Chesnutt as Trinculo are excellent as comic relief, and both are fine physical actors. Kathy Mille Wimmer's Gonzalo is an excellent voice of reason. Matt Andrade as Antonio is a perfect villain, but his transition to forgiveness is a big abrupt. I think this may be a fault in the script. Theatrical lore holds that in The Tempest Shakespeare is saying goodbye to the theatre, and he was intent on having a happy ending, a romance.

Paul Ford has led his excellent cast through a very enjoyable exploration of this great play. I could only find fault with some glitches in the sound system which have hopefully been worked out in subsequent performances. The New Mexico Shakespeare Festival is also presenting The Merry Wives of Windsor in rotating repertory. All performances are free. Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity

The Tempest runs through July 5, 2024, at the Veteran's Memorial Park, 1100 Louisiana Blvd. SE, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Fridays and Sundays at 7:30 pm. Admission is free. For tickets and information, please visit nmshakespearfestival.org.

Directed by Paul Ford, Choreography by Melissa Velasco, Stage Managed by Vicki Marie Singer, ASM, John A Craig. Cast: Brian Haney, Chris Black, Colyn Morris, Ed Chavez, Emiliano Aguilar, Matt Andrade, Michelle Eiland, Owen Reid Callis, Parker Owen, Emily Snell, Jay Hobson, Kathy Mille Wimmer, Kendra Rickert, Sage Bell, Shannon Bell, Thomas Chesnutt.