The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s romances, has opened this year’s season at A Noise Within (ANW), in Pasadena.
The play tells the story of Prospero, the Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda, who are marooned on an island due to the machinations of the Duke’s brother, Antonio. When Antonio’s ship is forced to the island by a massive storm, he and his entourage must walk through a land full of spirits and temptations before they are reunited with Prospero.
At ANW, Prospero is played by a woman, Deborah Strang. Although it is not the first time this has happened (Helen Mirren played the role for The Tempest movie in 2010, for example), it is not the rule and therefore significant. Strang plays the part convincingly in this production that flows well and completely entertains.
Ariel (played by Kimberleigh Aarn) does much to insert the magic that is vital in The Tempest. She jumps in and out of stage quickly as one would imagine an ethereal being would do, and at some point she appears as an enormous red figure that confuses and scares Antonio’s wandering group.
Geoff Elliott, who along with his wife Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, directs this play, also performs as Caliban, the odd looking “monster” that in this case has a weird shape in place of an ear and a hand, perhaps a hoof, of only three fingers/toes.
The play starts with a sea of fabric that moves wildly on stage as Ariel shakes about the shape of a boat that the audience easily understands is now in trouble. While Prospero wears the robes one would expect would clad a magician, the rest of the cast’s costumes make you think of the 1920’s, a time of gangsters, perhaps in Florida or California.
The Tempest was written by Shakespeare in 1610. It is often considered one of The Bard’s greatest accomplishments, where he fused a bit of tragedy, and of comedy, magic, and music, to show the complexity and ambiguity of human nature. It has a happy ending full of reconciliation, and of course, a love story. At ANW it is a beautiful production that entices you and takes you through a two-hour story in what feels like only minutes.
The Tempest will be performed at ANW (3352 East Foothill Blvd in Pasadena) on selected dates through Nov. 22. You can find tickets and information at http://www.anoisewithin.org or by calling (626) 356-3100. Tickets are $40, with student rush (with I.D.) an hour before each performance at $20.
Picture: Deborah Strang as Prospero – Craig Schwartz photo