Edited by director Cressida Brown of the Royal Shakespeare Company down to a hundred-minute one-act, Ohio State University’s “The Tempest” comes off as more of a brief squall. Not to say that there isn’t lots of surround sound and fury in the opening storm, more than enough to blow away and drown out most of Shakespeare’s sardonic wordplay.
“The Tempest,” usually thought to be Shakespeare’s final play and his valedictory to the world of theatre, finds the wizard-like Prospero (Sifiso Mazibuko) exacting revenge on, and then granting forgiveness to, his treacherous sibling Antonia (Melonie Mazibuko). Brown’s “Tempest” flips the gender of several of those who have betrayed Prospero by usurping his dukedom, cuts a few minor characters all together and shortchanges most of the subplots.
Among the most notable performances: Camille Bullock’s more-solid-than-airy Ariel, Brent Ries’ fey Trinculo, Jane Elliott’s spunky Stephana, Patrick Wiabel’s agile Caliban and Sarah Ware’s wide-eyed Miranda. Given the traditional Prospero-as-stage-manager meme, the idea of Ariel and her fellow-spirits both dressed and serving as theatre ushers is exceptionally cute.
Yet director Brown has made some curious choices. Aaron Michael Lopez plays Ferdinand, Miranda’s sudden beloved, as a strutting, pompous muscle-flexer. That elicits laughs at the expense of emotion. Then, Brown stages the play’s pivotal passage — when Ariel appeals to Prospero’s humanity to pardon his betrayers — as an exchange across the theatre’s entire expanse rather than as a moment of heart-wrenching intimacy.
Even Shakespeare might have squalled at that.
Editor’s note: Last Chance is a new feature wherein we highlight a show or exhibit you might have missed when it premiered. This is, as the title suggests, your last chance to experience it before it’s over.