Produced by: Pear Avenue Theatre
Featuring: John Baldwin, Lawrence Barrott, Sarah Benjamin, Mark Drumm, Ronald Feichtmeir, Jim Johnson, James Kopp, Doll Piccotto, Diane Tasca, Caitlyn Tella, and Laurence Varda
Directed by: Jeanie K. Smith
When: September 13 to October 6, 2013. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays
Where: Pear Avenue Theatre, 1220 Pear Avenue, Mountain View, California
Tickets:$10-$35. Call 650-254-1148 or visit www.thepear.org. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more
The great thing about "The Tempest," by William Shakespeare, is the play itself.
Any theater company can stage it, in almost any way, with almost any quality of actors, and as long as the production doesn't wander too far from the text, it's going to be a success.
"How many goodly creatures are there here!
"How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!"
Tiny Pear Avenue Theatre in Mountain View has a partly good cast and a very good set for its current production of "The Tempest," and I thoroughly enjoyed the production on Saturday, despite a few weaknesses here and there.
The set, by the prolific Ron Gasparinetti, is a marvel, serving as the deck of a storm-tossed ship and as rocks and fens of the little island on which the rightful Duke (in this production, Duchess) of Milan and his (her) daughter Miranda have been stranded for 12 years. There are caves tucked here and there for the keeping of the monster Caliban, and for the cell which serves as the royal home, and, if I counted correctly, offers six points for entrances and exits. Amazing, in so small a space.
Director Jeanie K. Smith (who also took tickets at the door and made coffee for the intermission) does a fine job moving the action along. making full use of every element of the staging.
It's no longer a big deal when the play is staged with a woman Prospera instead of Shakespeare's male Prospero. Diane Tasca, who is also artistic director of The Pear, and the producer for this play, was a fine Prospera, carrying the role with the regal, in-control demeanor required.
And most of the time, she delivered Shakespeare's blank verse beautifully.
Maybe three times, Tasca stumbled a bit with phrasing and rhythm or maybe flubbed a line Some plays, that doesn't matter. With the blank verse of Prospera's lines in "The Tempest," it matters. Still, it's a lot of verse, and three modest flubs do little to take away from what was, overall, a wonderful performance by Tasca.
In the original play, there was only one part for a woman Miranda, daughter of Prospero. (Who would have been played by a young man or boy, in Shakespeare's time.)
In this production, the monster Caliban is played by a woman, Doll Piccotto, and she is fabulous in the role. Her big eyes peering out suspiciously, with anger, fear and bitterness, from under a messy, dirt-covered face that befits a primitive creature who lives in a cave.
True, in the play, Caliban attempts to rape Miranda:
"O ho, O ho! would't had been done!
"Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else
This isle with Calibans."
But, little matter. Piccotto carries the role strongly. She really brings both the comedy and the pathos.
Caitlyn Tella is an excellent Ariel, the magical sprite who does Prospera's bidding. There was never a moment in which she was not delightful to watch, as a creature of air who wants her freedom, but still delights in doing her best for Prospera.
Sarah Benjamin as Miranda delivered her lines well enough, but her costume and posture were not good. Sure, all Miranda has known since the age of three is the island, but a point of her existence is that she is the daughter of royalty, and should have royal bearing.
Prospera wears the regal raiment of her position (such garments were thrown in the boat that carried her away), but she has none to share with her daughter? And even if dressed, as Miranda is in this production, in rough cloth more worthy of Caliban than of a royal daughter, Benjamin would have done better to throw her shoulders back and kept her head high with some amount of royal bearing.
She's only 15, you say? In Shakespeare's day, an unmarried 15-year-old would be a spinster. The daughter of royalty would know how to bear herself, even if raised on a lonely island.
The rest of the cast all men all had good moments, and they all had moments when they either just had no edge or were off on timing. Still, there is plenty of comedy and plenty of drama in these parts, and it was delivered, for the most part.
Kudos to lighting designer Henry Wilen ( He is currently attending Palo Alto High School as a senior, the program notes.) Every element of light helped carry the story forward. Kudos also to sound designer Gordon Smith and to whoever was actually running the sound board during the play. "The Tempest" has more incidental music than most Shakespeare, and only for a few minutes, early on, was it intrusive over the dialogue. Costumes by An-Lin Dauber were quite fine, apart from the business about Miranda.