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A CurtainUp Review
The Tempest

By Carolyn Balducci

My language? Heavens! I am the best of them that speak this speech, Were I but where 'tis spoken.
Nothing can be more exhilarating than Shakespeare beautifully and intelligently performed and, praise be, The Pearl Theater Company's new production of The Tempest is just that. Their new production offers audiences an honest, exuberant and well-articulated rendering of what many consider to be Shakespeare's most personal and finest play. Seldom have Shakespeare's exquisite lines and elusive vocabulary been so accessible to modern audiences, making this aa wonderful holiday play for the whole family.

Directed by Padraic Lillis, this Tempest charts the turmoil raging in the heart of Prospero as he struggles against the temptation to use his Cabalistic powers to punish his enemies. As eloquently played by Robert Hock, Prospero never lets righteousness give way to revenge, nor allows his love for his daughter, Miranda (exuberantly played by the lovely Rachel Botchan) overwhelm his sense of responsibility. Hock's stage presence and thoughtful elocution sets the standard for this role.

Staging and costumes have been made as simple as possible. Beowulf Boritt's austere set places conservatively dressed Edwardian gentlemen among paintings of cloud-filled blue skies. Evocative of the work of surrealist Rene Magritte, this also serves as a reminder of how between the wars, twentieth century Calibans took power in Europe. The neatly trimmed silver beards of the elder members of the cast conjures up the image of Luigi Pirandello, the modern playwright whose work challenged the distinction between theatrical make-believe and real-life madness.

Matchmaking Miranda with Fernando (Sean McNall) and reconciling with his brother, Antonio (Scott Whitehurst) form part of Prospero's master-plan as he engineers the unification of the Kingdom of Naples with his own duchy of Milan. Human nature being what it is, however, he cannot do this without resorting to trickery through supernatural powers. Once reconciliation takes place, he renounces his magic and frees his slaves, Ariel (Celeste Ciulla) and Caliban (played by the Dan Daily). Love, in all its forms - paternal, fraternal, platonic and erotic--has triumphed.

In its own day, The Tempest (1623) reflected the hope that the New World would offer the human race a better social order. Gonzalo, the Kind of Naples' honest counselor (played by John Newton) describes the utopia he would create on Prospero's island. "Letters would not be known; riches, poverty and use of service, none." As we know, none of this has come to pass; like de Tocqueville, Shakespeare's eyes were open to the flaws in the human character. Despite this, Shakespeare affirms his hope for a better world through the exclamation of young Miranda. "How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in it!"

Check out our Shakespeare's Little Instruction Book for Shakespeare's wit and wisdom and links to other Tempest reviews at CurtainUp

The Tempest
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Padraic Lillis
Cast: Robert Hock, Rachel Botchan, Celest Ciulla, Dan Daily, Edward Seamon, Andy Prosky, Sean McNall, Scott Whitehurst, John Newton, Christopher Moore, Dominic Cuskern, Jonathan Brathwaite, Stewart Carrico, Flannery Foster, Amy Hutchins, Brenda Withers
Lighting Design: Stephen Petrilli
Costume Design: Linda Cho
Mask Maker: Jim Stephens
Sound Design: Christopher J. Bailey
Scenic Consultant: Beowulf Boritt
Properties: Leo T. Van Allen
Choreographer: Bil Badolato
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, includes one 15-minute intermission
Pearl at Theatre 80, 80 St. Mark's Place (First/Second Ave-- N, R, W, or Q to 8th Street, 6 to Astor Place) 212/598-9802 web site
12/03/02-1/26/03; opening 12/08/02
Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2 p.m
. Tickets are $30 for weekday performances and Saturday matinees and $40 for Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees. Student and senior rush tickets are $10 and are available one hour prior to performance.

Reviewed by Carolyn Balducci based on December 7th press performance.
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