By John David Back
(I won’t say) Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest blew me away. I’m not above a bad pun, really, but I’m trying to cultivate a reputation as an amateur reviewer of the highest caliber. To that end, I’ll just say that The Tempest was really fun. I’ll also say that in general I’m glad women can act in Shakespeare’s plays in modern society, instead of the olden days when men played the women.
The Tempest is a tale of revenge, plain and simple. An old guy who happens to also be a wizard, Prospero, gets banished to an island by his power hungry sister. He spends the next 10+ years planning his magic-enabled dramatic sea-storm-based revenge. As so often happens when you have a man who can control people, animals, and the weather with a magical staff, things take all kinds of interesting turns.
The play starts with a terrible storm and a shipwreck. To accomplish the visuals, the performers pull out long spools of blue fabric and go wild. Prospero has taken a boat load of the people responsible for his banishment and caused them to crash on his island. If I ever get to the point that I need to banish a wizard, I’ll do a better job planning. Nicholas Rose, the actor playing Prospero, is a hell of a performer and a founding member of the Shakes. Since I had never seen The Tempest before, and understanding Shakespearean english is pretty hard, I only kind of knew what was going on, but I got the general gist pretty well. He lives on the island with his daughter Miranda (Aiden Sims).
There are also some local inhabitants of a supernatural nature, namely Ariel (Caitlyn McWethy) and Caliban (Geoffrey Warren Barnes II). A subplot that I really enjoyed was Ariel wanting to get fresh with Prospero. It could have been a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome, as she was his magically-controlled slave, but I bought it nonetheless.
This play is made particularly enjoyable by the fact that the court jester, Trinculo (Justin McCombs) is also shipwrecked. He gets hammered with his boy Stephano (Billy Chace), and hijinks ensue. You’ll laugh your butt off. If you’re in the front row you may even get a free beer. The comic relief, of which there is a lot, isn’t over the top. It makes the play approachable and gets you comfortable.
I haven’t seen a lot of Shakespeare, but I really, really enjoyed this performance. It’s also important to note that this is the last performance at this space. Soon they’ll be moving to their new theater at 12th and Elm and that will be that. If you want to see it before they go, you need to act fast – tickets are selling out at an alarming rate.
John David Back is a Cincinnati native who lives and works in OTR. He’s an avid reader and a mediocre writer who loves the experience of art and beauty. Tell him what he should experience and send fan mail to email@example.com.