The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s final plays, is a difficult play to categorize: part romance, part cautionary tale, part comedy. The play is A Midsummer’s Night Dream – lite, set on a mysterious island (without a smoke monster or ominous lottery numbers).
Producing Shakespeare is a risk and Rockville Little Theatre takes on the challenge with mixed success. For the most part, the main characters in this piece are perfectly cast and deliver a commendable performance. Nick Sampson, as the outcast duke, Prospero has a good mastery of the dialogue and delivers Prospero’s final soliloquy with conviction. Aided (or hindered) in his journey are the spirit Ariel and the island monster Caliban. Ariel and Caliban are representative of good versus evil and are portrayed here by the quirky Mary Lide and the devilish Jay Tilley. Both performers embody the physicality of these two spirits who are written as the stereotypical foils. Ariel is traditionally a male character, like a distant relative of Puck, but the choice of Director Charles Boyington to gender switch this nymph of the island works very well.
For the most part, the supporting characters serve their purpose. Darren Marquardt, as the overly sexual Alonso and Chris Pernick as the foppish Sebastian are nice standouts who deliver memorable performances among the players. Individually each member of the ensemble has moments, but they never really harmonized together as a unit. I did see the show on opening night, and I feel this will not be a problem going forward as the characters get more comfortable together and form a cohesive unit.
Every Shakespeare play has the young lovers, and here the lovebirds Miranda and Ferdinand are playfully executed by Katie Zitz and Scott Courlander. Courlander and Zitz have amazing chemistry on stage (and by the looks of their shout outs to each other in their bios, offstage as well). Together these not-quite-star-crossed lovers have the strongest range of emotions and Courlander and Zitz deliver on all accounts.
The technical aspects of the show were a mixed bag. The island set was a strange combination of oddly pitched platforms and fake potted plants that were not even attempted to hide the wicker baskets they lived in. At times the lighting was shadowy and dark, but I’m not sure if it was on purpose or the actors missing their marks. Costume Designer Mary Wakefield served this piece extremely well and used a nice blend of colors and fabrics to further the story.
Director Charles Boyington did an admirable job with this difficult piece. He kept the pace of his actors moving along and used the stage effectively and brought out the best in his actors. Boyington also achieved great results with his attention to the text and told a compelling story.
Running time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission.
The Tempest plays through through May 5, 2013 at Rockville Little Theatre at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 314-8690, or purchase them online.