Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: MARCH 5, 2010
Once upon a time, there was a benevolent but distracted Duke, whose kingdom was usurped by his evil brother. He was cruelly exiled, along with his infant daughter, dumped in a tiny boat and expected to drown in a storm. But miraculously, they landed safely on a distant island. The deposed duke used his magic to tame and master the resident monster and the sprites and spirits of the enchanted land. He and his daughter thrived, but he was just biding his time. Finally, twelve years later, vengeance was his. A boat carrying his enemies neared the island. He whipped up a huge storm, capsizing the vessel. Though he made sure that no one was killed or harmed, as the passengers washed ashore, the duke’s wizardry forced each of them to recognize their frailties and evil deeds. The son of his enemy fell in love with the duke’s daughter. The duke got his kingdom back and the island denizens got their freedom. No more magic, no more storms. Order was restored, and calm seas prevailed.
That is the beautiful fairy tale of “The Tempest,” considered to be Shakespeare’s last and most idealistic play, one in which, it’s thought, the writer, like the duke, gives up his creative magic. It’s a grandly fanciful invention, with glorious poetry, a passel of marvelous characters and myriad potential interpretations.
David Ellenstein , artistic director of North Coast Repertory Theatre, decided to make a little magic of his own. He teamed up with Mira Costa College for a co-production of the play, staged in the splendid theater space on the college’s Oceanside campus. The large stage, with flyspace above and trap below, provides a magnificent playground for professional designers and a stellar cast that combines students and pros. The result is enchanting.
There are no political angles here, no wild re-conceptions, just a solid telling of a bewitching tale. The production is radiant: the set is striking, the sound ethereal, the costumes fantastical.
Local Shakespeare veteran actor and teacher Jonathan McMurtry helms the cast as Prospero. During previews, he wasn’t quite set in his lines, which diminished the power and command of the character. But he cut a long-haired, wizardly figure. And he dazzled with his presentations of the textual set-pieces, the memorable, lyrical lines that are familiar to everyone. As Caliban and Ariel, Richard Baird and Christopher Williams are riveting; the rest of the cast is excellent, with the students acquitting themselves wonderfully well.
In this gorgeous story of illusion and reality, freedom and slavery, vengeance and forgiveness, pride, greed, envy and love, every character comes out of the experience with greater self-knowledge. It’s likely that you will, too.
“The Tempest” runs through March 14 on the Oceanside campus of Mira Costa College .
©2010 PAT LAUNER