Fall under the spell of Water Works’ ‘Tempest’ in Royal Oak
By Angela Colombo
ROYAL OAK,, Mich.–Do you believe in magic? It’s easy to fall under the spell of Royal Oak Shakespeare’s production of The Tempest. Themes of justice, loyalty and freedom after servitude get a generous sprinkling of magic. Like stardust on a hot summer afternoon, this is a play you can indulge in.
This show is a traditional rendering of The Tempest. We don’t see any of the urbanization that has become so popular since the dawn of Hamilton. This is Shakespeare straight up.
However, the Royal Oak Shakespeare production, under the direction of Barton Bund, flips gender roles and does so seamlessly. You never give it a second thought after noting that Prospero, originally written as a man, here is a woman, played commandingly by Erika Hoveland. Same for the character of Ariel, exuberantly played by Erin Prouty.
The magic weaves itself throughout the plot, which is really 3 plots rolled into one story. Prospero creates mystery and confusion among shipwreck victims to further her agenda of getting back what is rightfully hers.
Five actors play all the nine roles, deftly getting in and out of character and wardrobe changes. Colorful, luxurious costumes compensate for minimal production values at this outdoor show inside Starr Jaycee Park in Royal Oak.
For 12 years Prospero, and her young daughter have lived on an island after being deposed in a coup by her brother Antonio, with the support of Alonso, the King of Naples. Prospero and then child Miranda, played by Claire de Vries, escaped to the island aided by courtier Gonzalo, taking with them only Prospero’s magic books. In the opening scene, sensing the King of Naples’ ship sailing in waters near the island, Prospero uses her magic to conjure a storm. The tempest shipwrecks the vessel, also carrying the king’s son, Ferdinand, his brother, Sebastian, Gonzalo and her treacherous brother Antonio, the Duke of Milan.
Ariel, Prospero’s spirit servant, devotedly looks out for Prospero at every turn, indebted to Prospero for rescuing her from the purgatory she was placed in by the cruel witch Sycorax. Caliban, Sycorax’s monstrous son is Prospero’s slave. He plots to rid himself of his master, but is thwarted by the watchful Ariel.
The King’s young son Ferdinand, played by Lee Cleaveland, falls in love with Miranda. Cleaveland also plays Trinculo, the court fool, giving us a great comedic performance. The King thinks his son perished in the shipwreck and is overjoyed when they are later reunited. At Miranda’s pleading, Prospero agrees to allow the two to marry. Their celebrations are cut short when Prospero confronts his brother and reveals his identity as the usurped Duchess of Milan. The turmoil ends on a happy note when Prospero forgives all, the families are reunited and all conflict is resolved.
Prospero frees Ariel and bids us all, “let your indulgence set me free.”
The Tempest is a great way to spend an afternoon. Two performances left, Saturday, August 3 at 4PM and Sunday, August 4 at 1PM.
The box office is located at 1101 W. 13 Mile Road inside Starr Jaycee Park, and it opens one hour before show time. Tickets may be purchased there by cash, check or credit card. For more information call the office 248-399-3727 or go to their website www.shakespeareroyaloak.com
Parking is a short walk from the stage on the grassy parking lot (Farley Field) on 13 Mile, just west of the baseball diamond. Patrons wishing to drop off their chairs before parking may use the handicapped access in the central parking lot near the box office.