Regional Reviews: San Diego
Prospera, the exiled Duke of Milan, has taken over a mostly deserted island and through study of books has become a sorcerer. After years of preparation, Prospera lures those who exiled her to the area and then conjures a storm to shipwreck them. Once they are on the island, she sends Ariel, a sprite with magical powers, to confuse the shipwrecked passengers, to separate them as needed, and to set them against each other.
In so doing, Prospera manages to cull Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, from the rest of the group. When Ferdinand meets Miranda, Prospera's daughter, he is immediately smitten with nearly magical love.
Now, I should pause here to acknowledge that I have describing Prospera, rather than Prospero. The Old Globe's production puts actor Kate Burton at the center of the action and has renamed the central character accordingly. Ms. Burton plays the role authoritatively and brings her own take to it, but that take to me doesn't create a character that is all that different from others I've seen play the role. It seems as though there are as many "Prosperx" as there are actors, and that's a good thing.
The other idea that Mr. Dowling brings to the production is that what we are seeing is really a play within a playand thus, the setting should be a theatre. Fair enough, only Alexander Dodge's scenic design is mostly inert. It consists of piles of stuff, along with a turntable, which turns out to be a nice touch. The turntable is the only dynamic element of the design, and theatre is by its nature dynamic.
Dynamism also arrives in the form of David Israel Reynoso's costume design. As the magical fantasy unfolds, the costumes become more and more outrageous until at one point they become full-on replicas of Las Vegas spectaculars. I admire the swirls and blends of color that were created, but I tend to wonder what was the point? Philip S. Rosenberg's lighting design does its best to separate magical and spiritual from the mundane. Keith Thomas's original music and Jonathan Deans' sound design enhance the production concept.
The Globe's Summer Shakespeare Festival tends to attract well-trained actors who can "speak the speech" with professional flair, and this summer's crew is no exception to that rule. A few performances stand out: Philippe Bowgen as Arial makes a fine foil for Ms. Burton. Lizan Mitchell as Gonzala humanizes a minor role and makes the strongest case for gender reversal. The clowns, Robert Dorfman as Stephano and Andrew Weems as Trinculo, become funnier with each appearance.
A couple of Globe veterans, Robert Foxworth as Alonso and Manoel Felciano as Caliban, are wasted in their roles, their considerable talents rendered earthbound. Sam Avishay plays Ferdinand as a gangly youth, rather than as a king-in-waiting. It is an interesting choice but not always a successful one. It sometimes leaves Nora Carroll's Miranda looking a little quizzical at her mother's selection of a lover for her.
The Tempest is solid enough to be enjoyable, particularly if one is not familiar with the play. Veteran Tempest watchers will find few, if any, "ah-ha" moments to enjoy.
The cast also includes Carlos Angel-Barajas, Yadira Correa, Daniel Ian Joeck, Jose Martinez, Renardo Charles Pringle Jr., Larica Schnell, Jersten Seraile, Samantha Sutliff, Morgan Taylor, Wenona Truong, Jared Van Heel, and Eric Weiman, all of whom are students in The Old Globe and University of San Diego Shiley Graduate Theatre Program.
The Tempest, through July 22, 2018, in the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, a part of the Old Globe campus in San Diego's Balboa Park. Performs Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 8:00 p.m. There are no performances on Wednesday, July 4 or Sunday, July 15, with additional performances on Monday, July 2 and Monday, July 16. Tickets are available online at www.TheOldGlobe.org, by phone at (619) 23-GLOBE [234-5623], or by visiting the box office at 1363 Old Globe Way.