The Tempest – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

What better way to spend a delightful summer evening than by being outdoors and watching as sunset drifts into a star studded night at Edgerton Park on the New Haven/Hamden border. Come with the family and a pup or three, chair, blanket, picnic, bug spray and flash light to be royally entertained by Elm Shakespeare’s charming troupe of entertainers in the Bard’s tale of jealousy and revenge “The Tempest.” Held this year until Sunday, September 4 every night except Mondays, the park opens at 6:30 p.m., with music for a sing along at 7:30 p.m. and the show at 8 p.m. The play is two hours without intermission.

The master magician Prospero is bent on using his secret skills to enact revenge. A dozen years ago he and his small daughter Miranda had been sent into exile to a deserted island. The devilish deed was done by brother Antonio (Manu Kumasi), with the help of Alonso (Cynthia DeCure) the Queen of Naples, and her dishonest cohorts and one goodhearted Gonzalo (Lisa Wolpe) all because of jealousy.

Prospero is the rightful Duke of Milan and now, twelve years after the fact, is set to punish his enemies. Prospero, a commanding L. Peter Callender, conjures up a storm, “a tempest,” to catch his tormentors and shipwreck them, thus putting them at his mercy,

A ship carrying Alonso and Antonio and Alonso’s son Ferdinand (Mauricio Miranda) and the Queen’s brother Sebastian (Gracy Brown) is traveling home from Tunis and Prospero is busy with his spirit friend Ariel, a free floating Sarah Bowles, and the quixotic Caliban, an unhappy Benjamin Curns, who obeys him but has evil in his heart for Prospero. Prospero’s main concern is his daughter Miranda, an eager young Tyler Cruz, who was only three when this miscarriage of justice took place. Much of their success in adapting to their exile is thanks to Gonzalo and her initial help of food, water, clothes and a library of books when Prospero and little Miranda were set adrift in a small boat.

Prospero has thrived on the tiny island. With the aide of Ariel, a spirit only he can see, and Caliban, an ungrateful and menacing son of a witch, he has learned to survive. While Ariel serves him, she only desires her freedom, but Caliban resents his presence and wants him permanently gone.

Through his incantations, Prospero separates the men on the ship into three groups, so that Alonso and her son Ferdinand each believe the other is dead. Two of Alonso’s servants Stephano (Josh Innerst) and Trinculo (Jeff Raab ) are delightfully drunk and fall in with Caliban to plot a ridiculous defeat of Prospero. The handsome young Ferdinand is immediately smitten with Miranda, so quickly that Prospero feels he must place a few obstacles in the path of true love so “too light winning (may) make the prize light.”

Meanwhile Antonio and Sebastian have treachery firmly in mind as they plot to murder Alonso and the good-hearted Gonzalo so that Sebastian can become King. A forgiving Prospero, calm after the storm, with the help of the Bard, makes sure everything works out as “all’s well that ends well.” Rebecca Goodheart does a splendid job directing this cast of professionals and local performers. As Goodheart states, “In today’s world full of division and struggling with justice, this play offers hope. How do we manage our own-often justified- anger and hurt? What must we do to settle the past, for our children to have a chance in the world? How do we find reconciliation?” As Prospero learns, forgiveness is the answer.

This year’s offering has been enhanced by an exciting gift from Alexander Clark of a new portable playhouse stage, designed by Izmir Ickbal. The performance on Thursday, August 25 will be sign-interpreted. The performances are free but donations are most welcome, either at the show or by texting ‘ElmShakes2022’ to 99192 or Venmo:@Elm-Shakespeare. Plan to attend Shakespeare by the Sea, a 2022 Gala and Auction on Wednesday, September 14 at Amarante’s Sea Cliff in New Haven. Another upcoming event is Sunday in the Park on September 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Edgerton Park. For more information, contact elmshakespeare.org. This is Elm Shakespeare’s 27th year offering excellent theater to the community, especially welcome after the two years of the pandemic.

A web of enchantment is being woven that will surely catch you in its mesmerizing spell. Hold tight to the magic!

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