Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
The Tempest tells the story of Prospero, a former Duke of Milan who has been wrongfully exiled to a deserted island with his daughter Miranda. When fate brings the usurpers nearby, Prospero uses sorcery to conjure a vicious storm that shipwrecks them on his island. Relying on the skills and quick wit of a spirit named Ariel, Prospero uses the opportunity to seek revenge, regain his title, and secure a better future for sweet Miranda.
Imposing, regal, and just a bit sinister, Lawrence Pressman is a phenomenal Prospero. There is something utterly fascinating about the way Pressman forges a unique connection to each of his fellow castmates. I was particularly impressed by scenes with Pressman and Marielle Issa, who plays his daughter Miranda. Issa has a naive and earnest energy that creates a great foil to Pressman's wise and stoic presence. Issa and Pressman convey an authentically loving and complex father-daughter relationship, but it is the fantastic creatures who give the best performances in this Tempest. Gregory Isaac is deliciously disturbing as the grotesque creature Caliban and Pat Moran is effortlessly effervescent as protean and powerful Ariel.
Alex Burns and Ellen Moore use innovative staging, dramatic lighting, and some well-placed smoke to transport the audience into Prospero's world of wizardry, danger and wonder. Burns directs the talented cast, Moore designed the dynamic lighting, and the creative pair co-designed the set. The combination of a runway stage and a theater in-the-round design keeps the action centered and the audience engaged. Jane Casanave's costume designs are each excellent; I am especially fond of Ariel's sleek ensembles and Caliban's fish monster get-up.
It is a joy to see such an innovative and imaginative production of Shakespeare's beloved The Tempest. This is the immortal bard and Philadelphia's own Quintessence at their very best.
The Tempest runs through April 2, 2023, at the Quintessence Theatre Group, Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please visit www.QTGrep.org or call 215-987-4450.