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NDSF’s “The Tempest” is truly spectacular

| Thursday, August 25, 2016

NDSF The Tempest webJOSEPH HAN

Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” is a veritable spectacle, and the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival Professional Acting Company’s adaptation of the Bard’s final play is spectacular. Directed by Cirque du Soleil director West Hyler, the show is filled with a pageantry on par with Hyler’s pedigree and is designed to delight and enamor.

As the lights dim and the curtains open, the audience is thrust immediately into the eponymous tempest and sits helplessly as they, along with half the cast, are consumed by a massive tidal wave that whisks them off on a mystical adventure filled with deception, vengeance and, above all, comedy. Prospero, a sorcerer and the usurped duke of Milan, was betrayed by his power-hungry brother Antonio and is stranded on a remote island with his daughter, Miranda. There, they live with their slave Caliban and the spirit Ariel, isolated from the world until Antonio, along with Alonso, the King of Naples, and his son Ferdinand, are shipwrecked on the very same island. What follows is a whirlwind of passion, hilarity and intrigue.

One of the largest directorial deviations from the play as written is Hyler’s decision to take the role of Ariel and break it up into one principal character named Ariel — played by actress, aerialist and musician Sarah Scanlon — as well as a small ensemble called “Ariel’s Qualities” in reference to an early line in the show, which is composed of various aerialists and musicians, including Saint Mary’s graduates Jennifer Vosters and Maria Welser, both class of 2016. In addition to contributing occasionally to the plot, “Ariel’s Qualities” provides musical accompaniment throughout the show.

Nick Sandys, who portrays the sorcerer Prospero, is the undeniable star of the show. His strong delivery and commanding voice dominate every scene and his stage presence is even larger than the storm his character conjures. Another standout is Alex Podulke’s Caliban, a disfigured slave who evolves over the course of the show from loathsome to pathetic to detestably likeable. Where the show’s comedic relief traditionally comes from the characters of Stephano and Trinculo, played respectively by Patrice Egleston and juggler Jacob D’Eustachio, Podulke as Caliban contributes significantly to the humor of the show.

Even in the face of 400 years of variations and adaptations, the NDSF puts on a production that holds to the Shakespearean tradition while simultaneously treating their audience to a novel performance. Every line of dialogue is augmented by an aerial twist or dive, and the actors’ commitment to their individual roles as well as the collective show is evident.

Tickets are sold out for the final four performances in the show’s two week run.

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