As audience members stepped onstage for an intimate production of Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" at Heritage High School, they were greeted by the roar of a violent storm, and transported to a colorful, exotic world where magic lurks and spirits roam. It is here that this story of resentment, loyalty and young love began.
"The Tempest" follows a group of stranded Italian nobles as they wander around a seemingly deserted island, unsuspectingly subjected to the whims of the bitter Prospero, the ousted Duke of Milan, who has been living on the island with his daughter, Miranda, for 12 years, fostering his magical talents and trying to tame the half-savage Caliban. Prospero (played by a woman in this case, Colleen Michaelsen) attempts to make his brother, Antonio, realize the evil of his takeover of Milan, and secures the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand, the prince of Naples, who have fallen instantly in love.
The overall visual effect was a highlight of the play. The costumes dazzled and the set was beautifully simple. Unexpected song and dance set a nice tone, and various vocal soloists, especially Annie Stokes, gave good performances throughout, accompanied by pretty harmonies from the Island Spirits. Prospero’s loyal helper, Ariel (Luisa Casuccio) was an especially good dancer and deserves applause for her choreography. Casuccio was eager and energetic, continuously focused on her graceful character; the perfect fleeting airy spirit.
Other memorable performances came from Kimberly Forde as the over-the-top jester Trinculo and Jennifer Pittman as the savage Caliban. Forde commanded attention; her physical comedy was always fun to watch. Pittman was appropriately wild and crazed, occasionally sending piercing shrieks throughout the theater. Miranda (Emily Tavino) had nice chemistry with the sincere Ferdinand (Blair Russell), and they worked well together to make their sudden love believable. Tavino was an active listener and outshone some of the others with her attentiveness and expressiveness.
Although there were some projection problems, the cast seemed to have a good general understanding of the script and communicated Shakespeare’s meaning relatively well. Having the audience seated onstage with the actors was an excellent choice and made up for any awkward moments when actors were facing the back of the stage.
Overall, the actors were articulate and clear, and the presentation was engaging. Heritage High School should be commended for their ambitious revival of Shakespeare and doing their part in keeping his classic plays alive.