‘The Tempest’ took Brandeis by storm

‘The Tempest’ took Brandeis by storm

March 13, 2020

“The Tempest” is a widely established Shakespearean play about an ex-duke of Milan, Prospero, who is exiled to a remote island with his daughter, Miranda. Using magic, he tries to seek revenge on his brother Antonio, who took the Dukedom of Milan from him, and the King of Naples, Alonso, who aided Antonio. Part of Prospero’s plan is that he wants Miranda to fall in love with Ferdinand, Alonso’s son. This performance still felt exciting and refreshing. Aside from the story, many things made it worth watching: a magnificent set, colorful costumes and remarkable performances by Brandeis University actors. 

Upon first arriving at the Laurie Theater for Brandeis’ play production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” the elaborate set design was what first caught my attention. Set on a distant island, the set design itself was contemporary yet ancient and evoked a mysterious and dynamic atmosphere right at the onset of the play. The tube-like ramp that descends from the right hand corner of the stage added depth and complexity to the set, including a mysterious entrance through which actors slid down and entered. The black rubber pieces mimicking sand added interesting texture to the stage. The audio and visual effects that were used to perform magic were flawless, as the sound of Prospero’s magic staff added theatrics to the play. This ambiguous yet intriguing set lends itself to being transformed for different scenes and the way this was directed with moving from the ocean storm to the inner island all worked in the context of this set.

One aspect that made this play particularly refreshing was that many traditionally male characters were played by female actors, and it was interesting to see the note about the change of pronouns in the script to fit the cast members they had. This change is not only fitting for March, as it is women’s history month, but also serves as a subversion to the actors of Shakespeare’s time when female characters were played by male actors in Shakespeare’s plays, since women were not allowed on stage. The vivid costumes were very eye-catching and evoked a more playful and whimsical tone for the play, adding a touch of carnival to the magical island. 

Despite seeing an overall good performance from the cast, some particularly remarkable performances stand out. Caliban (Renata Leighton ’21), one of Prospero’s servants, was one of the strongest performances of the play. Their body movement, sneers and scowls, the commitment to playing a wretched slave was extremely impressive. Also, Ariel (Grace Ahlin ’23), another of Prospero’s servants, was done justice by Ahlin’s lovely performance that seemed to mesh dance with the fluid way they walked and snuck invisibly around other characters. Other great performances include Anderson Stinson III ’21 as Alonso’s brother Sebastian, Jonah Koslofsky ’20 as Antonio and Elizabeth Hilliard ’21 as Stephano, who offered a thrilling performance as a drunk butler. The scenes where Trinculo (Maia Cataldo ’20), Stephano and Caliban are drunk were very entertaining and funny to watch. Prospero (Evelyn Inker ’23) was most exciting to watch when they were being aggressive and mean, especially to Caliban and Ariel; however, in spite of this I found other parts of their performance unable to match the stage presence of the other actors. 

The overall experience of The Tempest was interesting, and what kept me interested was not always the play itself but the way it was portrayed without a particular time setting and its mysterious, magical atmosphere. While it’s definitely not one of my favorite Shakespeare plays—I find the ending too tame—the Brandeis Theater Department really rendered it unique with its own modern twists. 

The Tempest was originally planned to show again this coming weekend between March 13-15 on Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. However, this is now cancelled due to new school policies.

Editor’s Note: Jonah Koslofsky is the Arts Editor of The Hoot and did not contribute to the writing or editing of this article.

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