‘The Tempest’ blows into Shanley with impressive artistic flair

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Source: Nate Bartlett

Lindsey Carlson works her magic as Prospero in Lovers & Madmen’s production of “The Tempest.” Creative casting and choreography came together for a successful reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s play.

Sammy Caiola, Reporter

You know it’s a good Shakespeare production when the mechanical engineer sitting next to you understands and enjoys the whole thing. The packed house is usually an indicator too.

Lovers & Madmen’s production of “The Tempest,” which opened Friday, was a whirlwind adventure rocked by undercurrents of greed, revenge and magic that brought new life to an archaic text. The fluid choreography, abetted by the rugged set and diaphanous costuming, gave audience members an eerie sense of the mystical powers of nature and the capacity for disaster should those powers fall into the wrong hands.

A few off-kilter decisions by Communication senior and director David Corlew made this adaptation stand out among others. Most notable is the re-gendering of Duke Prospero, the story’s antagonist, whose thirst for power and revenge drives the plot. Instead, we get Prospera, former duke of Milan, whose sister usurped her throne and banished her and her daughter Miranda to a deserted island.

Though the thought of a Victorian Italian hierarchy where women can steal thrones from one another can be hard to swallow, the use of a female for the vengeful ex-Duke is actually a very wise choice. Vengeance is a trait historically associated with the female sphere, and a behavior more naturally exhibited by women. Communication senior Lindsey Carlson plays the role with great finesse, nearly spitting fire in moments of anger and mastering the arts of cunning and deception. Carlson wears many hats throughout the show — the protective mother, the wicked sorceress, the slave owner and finally the remorseful villain — all while maintaining authenticity and watchability.

The show was initially supposed to involve aerial silks, a form of circus choreography all theater majors learn when they take a course colloquially referred to as “circus.” But due to technical issues, the spirits were confined to the floor. Even so, the dancers incorporated acrobatic freezes, and their feats of flexibility were visually engaging and a welcome distraction from the heavy text.

The choice to turn Ariel, usually one male fairy, into a tri-bodied creature, was one of which I was not especially fond. The movements of the three “Ariel” actresses seemed contrived, like some bizarre cheerleading routine where the girls held one another up in seemingly random positions. Then there was the game of “how to most inefficiently leave the stage using as many ridiculous arm gestures as possible.” While the fluid movements worked well for the seven spirits, I wanted something firmer from Ariel.

I’m more inclined to praise Prospera’s other slave Caliban, an island native who is unwillingly held subject by the Duke’s powers of sorcery. His hilarious outbursts and childlike movements make him the most entertaining character on stage, while also the most relevant in portraying themes of colonialism.

“The Tempest,” by nature, has a lot going on. This cast kept it together and kept it interesting, and the actors didn’t feel the need to play by the book. For that, they get an A.

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