Review: The Power of Art to Calm the Storm in Theater 2020’s "The Tempest"

The Tempest

Written by William Shakespeare

Adapted by David Fuller

Directed by Judith Jarosz

Presented by Theater 2020 at The Great Room at ART NY (138 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn), June 14-28, 2024, and at Pier One – Brooklyn Bridge Park, June 29-30, 2024*

*Note: Pier One dates cancelled due to COVID and weather

Center front: David Fuller as Prospero. From left: David Arthur Bachrach, Eileen Glenn, Corey Barron, Kodee Martin, Emma Noelani, Linda Elizabeth, Robert Dyckman, Caryn Hartglass, Lynn Marie Macy, Michael Gnat. Photo by John Hoffman

Theater 2020’s delightful 75-minute adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest serves as a timely and powerful reminder that art has the potential not only to mirror reality but even more poignantly to reimagine a better future. Certainly, the future The Tempest proffers is not utopian; the colonized Caliban remains “a thing of darkness” under the control of an only somewhat humbled Prospero. However, the reconciliation of its other characters and the promise of a united future for Milan and Naples presented by the union of Ferdinand and Miranda are presented by this production as sincere belief in the human capacity for forgiveness and the ability to move forward.

David Fuller’s Prospero demonstrated a great deal of range, with a pomposity and perhaps overblown sense of his own powers that is nevertheless justified by his hold over Emma Noelani’s Ariel and Robert J. Dyckman’s Caliban, both of whom were especially strong performers. Yet the seriousness of Prospero’s manipulation and control over much of what happens in the play is infused with a great deal of unironic lightness. Linda Elizabeth’s Miranda and KoDee Martin’s Ferdinand are the earnest young lovers an audience expects from these characters, but they also demonstrate a cheekiness that shows they do not take themselves too seriously. The red, white, and blue costumes on the entire cast sans Ariel (who was clad in silver) make them feel like vacationers on a cruise ship rather than the victims of shipwreck, but this choice certainly does not undercut the importance of the themes under exploration here.

The comic centerpiece of any successful production of The Tempest is always Stephano and Trinculo’s banding together with Caliban, and Corey Barron (Stephano) and Caryn Hartglass (Trinculo) did not disappoint in this regard. They presented the physicality of these roles with aplomb, utilizing the whole of The Great Room’s space and showcasing their ability to sing and dance.

The play’s resolution, when all of the characters converge after their separate travels around the island for Prospero’s big reveal of himself and Miranda and Ferdinand together, highlights that there need not be any limits on forgiveness and reconciliation, even for characters like Antonio and Sebastian who have (or planned to) wrong their siblings so egregiously. Alonsa’s realization that her beloved son Ferdinand is alive was touchingly played by Lynn Marie Macy, and the gender-swapping of both her character and her counselor Gonzala (Eileen Glenn) is a clever innovation of this production that works to subtly change the dynamics of not only this scene but those with Sebastian and Antonio.

In the end, Miranda’s awe at seeing so many humans gathered together for the first time in her memory, with her famous declaration that it is a “brave new world,” does not play as hopelessly naïve. Rather, following the reunion and reconciliation of these characters it feels in this production like a recognition that we have just seen the best of humanity, something that perhaps can only exist in the space of the theater. A brave new world, indeed.

-Stephanie Pietros


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