A marvel of driftwood slanted at impossible angles and books used for steps and tucked into every conceivable nook and cranny greet theatergoers at California Shakespeare Theater's production of "The Tempest."
In keeping with the magical island depicted in Shakespeare's tale, set designer Emily Greene has created a world in which nothing is as it seems. Cupboards become portals for Arial and her sprites to come and go; trunks open and serve as entrances and exits for other characters. Gabe Maxson's lighting creates an otherworldly effect, enhanced by Cliff Caruthers music and sounds.
Director Jonathan Moscone weaves his own magic in the telling of Shakespeare's story of Prospero and his young daughter Miranda, wrongly banished to a strange island by his jealous brother. When the brother and the King sail close to the island, Prospero sees his chance for revenge, using his magic and the ethereal sprite Arial to carry out his plan.
In a beautifully crafted scene with Arial, Propero (Michael Winters) realizes that his years of banishment have also robbed him of his humanity. He then sets about reconciling with his enemies.
Moscone cleverly uses nine performers to play 14 characters, with such clever doubling as Caliban/Antonio (Catherine Castellanos), Miranda/Sebastian (Emily Kitchens), Ferdinand/Trinculo (Nicholas Pelczar) and Prospero/Stephano (Michael Winters). Pelczar managed to play both his characters flawlessly, with
Winters' Prospero was a much kinder, gentler interpretation that could have benefited from a harder edge in the beginning to make his transformation more powerful. He was much more successful with his outrageously funny Stephano.
Moscone's choice to incorporate the dancing as an integral part of the production was a wise one. The use of the dancing sprites to move actors around the stage in graceful lifts was a delightful touch. Award-winning choreographer Erika Chong Shuch did double duty as Arial, showing herself to be a sensitive actor as well as accomplished dancer and singer. Dressed in a diaphanous butterfly creation of costumer Anna Oliver, Arial wins her freedom from Prospero, and in a touching goodbye magically disappears.
"The Tempest" continues through June 24 at the Bruns Memorial Amphitheater in Orinda. Call 510-548-9666 or go to www.calshakes.org.
The Willows Theatre is all about laughs this June and July, with "9 to 5" playing to appreciative audiences at the Concord Mainstage through June 23, and Laurence Carr's "Vaudeville" opening June 28 at the Campbell Cabaret in Martinez.
The 1919 ode to the men and women who trod the boards at the old Vaudeville houses runs through July 21.
And just in case you haven't had enough laughs, the Willows throws in "Comedy at the Campbell" on Saturday, June 16 at 8 p.m. Musical guest Brian Bergeron joins comedians Robin Cee and Derrick Leonard for a night of fun. For tickets to any of these events, call 925-798-1300 or go to www.willowstheatre.org.
For more laughs, join comedian, actor and writer Kurt Bodden at St. John's Episcopal Parish in Clayton with a special show Friday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. In his one-man show "Steve Seabrook: Better Than You," he spoofs motivational speakers. For more information, call 925-672-8717 or go to www.brownpapertickets.com.
The San Ramon Historical Society offers the unique theatrical event "Tennessee on the Farm" featuring three short one-act plays by Tennessee Williams. Directed by Role Players Ensemble's Artistic Director, the plays "The Pretty Trap," "27 Wagons Full of Cotton" and "The Case of the Crushed Petunias" perform on June 23 at 5 p.m. and June 24 at 2 p.m. at Forest Home Farms Historic Park in San Ramon. Call 925-820-1278 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Contact Sally Hogarty at email@example.com.