By GABRIELLE KUHN
Madness rose like fog from the cracks of the stage in the University of Mary Washington’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s dark comedy, “The Tempest,” the final production of the 2012-2013 season that opened on April 11.
In celebration of the department of theatre’s 100-year anniversary, the Klein Theatre resurrected Shakespeare’s famous, stormy show, which was last performed at UMW in 1979.
The show opens with a terrible storm summoned by sorcerer Prospero, who was banished to sea with his young daughter, Miranda, by his insidious brother Antonio. Now ruler of a mysterious island inhabited by sprites and beasts alike, Prospero schemes with the spirit Ariel against the shipwrecked crew, among them Antonio and other co-conspirators.
The efforts that the department made in creating this mad play are woven into the set itself. Tall, wiry trees creep along the edges of the stage, laced with spider webs that mark the island as a place forgotten by time. Monsters and nymphs crawl from caves dug under the slanted stage. By changing the lights and music, this multifunctional set easily transitioned from eerie to lush, creating a home for both delicate fairies and mad creatures.
Though sometimes dark and serious, the strength of “The Tempest” is its humor. Senior theatre major Jen Furlong as the disabled slave Caliban, crawls and complains until abated by a few sips of liquor. The creature then literally becomes a “foot licker,” worshipping a drunken butler played by sophomore business major Ford Torney. These characters wander about the island, singing and drinking as they hatch mad plots to overthrow Prospero, played by sophomore computer science and studio art major Austin Bouchard.
Bouchard brought intensity to the role of Prospero with a booming voice that commanded obedience from spirit and sailor alike. In a question and answer session after the Sunday matinee, Bouchard credited a vocal coach with teaching him how to protect his voice while projecting his lines.
The actors also noted the effort that went into memorizing their lines. Senior theatre major Bess Ten Eyck, who played Prospero’s love-struck daughter, Miranda, described learning her lines was like learning a song.
The difficulty of learning and expressing Shakespeare’s words was not lost on the audience. Undeclared sophomore Hannah Freedman, who plans to declare a musical theatre minor this spring, said the play was “probably a challenge with the text,” but that the actors were able to express the feeling and meaning behind their lines well.
“Everyone did a really good job, you can tell the actors worked hard,” Freedman said.
Between powerful monologues and solemn soliloquies, several of the actors added a musical element to their performances. Senior theatre major Anissa Felix played Ariel, the gleefully mischievous spirit who carries out Prospero’s orders on the island. Felix often expressed her character’s feelings and actions with song or dance. Her movements and voice created a lighter-than-air character capable of maddening the shipwrecked sailors or luring them around the island.
Whether dark and brooding or light and airy, UMW’s production of “The Tempest” is visually stunning, well-crafted and well-acted. Check out the effects and talent at the Klein Theater, and watch the madness unfold.