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Theater Review: ...The Tempest... Comes to MIT

Shakespeare Ensemble Shows Comedic Skill in Latest Production

By Alice Macdonald

“The Tempest”

MIT Shakespeare Ensemble

Oct. 26-28, Nov. 2-4, 8:00 p.m.

Little Kresge Theater

$6 students, $8 general admission

MIT students should love MIT Shakespeare Ensemble’s production of “The Tempest” — there are mythical creatures, magic, swords, funny costumes, and comedy! I was pleasantly surprised by the ensemble’s latest production, which opened last Thursday in Little Kresge. Don’t get me wrong. I am sure MIT’s various theatre groups often put on great shows, but my past experiences have often been disappointments. Thankfully, in this production, the troupe brings a lot of energy to the show, which keeps the mood light and humorous — as it should be. “The Tempest” is one of Shakespeare’s funniest comedies. I was relieved that the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble managed to make comedy a priority, and they were rewarded with plenty of laughs from the audience.

The plot of “The Tempest” comes in three parts: the love story, the power struggle, and the slapstick — all of which are manipulated by the powerful Prospero (Mike Haddad) and his nymph-like servant, Ariel (Margaret A. Rosenburg ’07). Haddad’s Prospero is well-balanced — not too forceful nor too comedic. He delivered his lines with clarity and at a good pace, allowing the audience to laugh when appropriate.

In the play, Prospero has been wronged by his usurping brother, and now he seeks to use his magical powers combined with some good fortune and fate to set things right. I find that typically this subplot involving the king of Naples and his companions to be the weakest part of the play. This performance was no exception, but it managed to remain clear and well put together if not terribly interesting or entertaining. The king, Alonso (Bonnie E. Krenz ’10), his brother Sebastian (Deirdre J. LaBounty ’10), the brother of Prospero, Antonio (Holly B. Laird ’07), and the good and faithful Gonzalo (Sarah McDougal ’00), make up this cast of royals left at the mercy of Prospero’s magic. You might be wondering … why do these actors have such unusual male names? I don’t know any men named Bonnie, Sarah, Deirdre, or Holly. I can explain. Fierce Forever wasn’t the only showcase of drag on campus last weekend, as many of the male parts in “The Tempest” are performed by women. I wonder if it might have been possible to have actually changed the genders of a couple of these characters to women instead of just dressing them all as men.

Another tricky aspect of “The Tempest” is how to interpret the character of Ariel. I once saw a different production in which Ariel took a strange and “artistic” turn – he was dressed all in black with a bald head and delivered all his lines in a sad, dreamy way. The result, as one can imagine, was really a downer. I prefer the Ariel in this production, who was extremely energetic throughout the performance. Rosenburg threw herself into the role but at the same time refrained from jumping and wafting around the stage too much. Ariel plays a major role in manipulating all the other characters, which brings us to the romantic portion of the play.

The love story takes place between the king’s son, Ferdinand (Anthony D. Rindone ’10), and Prospero’s daughter, Miranda (Anna T. Roussanova ’08). The interpretation of this part of the play was well done, and it comes off as sweet and adorable. Instead of playing Ferdinard as a lame, boring weakling, Rindone went all out to become the character of a dorky, awkward, and pampered prince. His meekness was wondefully balanced by the large and powerful Prospero, and led to some great comedic moments.

Speaking of comedy, a large dose was delivered by the duo of drunkards Stephano (Jennifer L. Benoit G) and Trinculo (Sharon J. Gochenour ’10). Benoit and Gochenour gave a terrifically comedic performance that sometimes teetered on cartoonish. They joined forces with the unfortunate Caliban (Kellas R. Cameron ’10), a half-man, half-monster enslaved by Prospero, and the trio proceeded to ramble drunkenly about and provide plenty of slapstick.

I really encourage all of you to give “The Tempest” a try — it is a nice light piece that begs not to be taken too seriously. In fact, it might be just what you need after all those problem sets and tests.