Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows, and none so strange as those found at the Daydreams and Nightmares Aerial Theatre. Taking to the stage, and perhaps the space above it, is William Shakespeare’s The Tempest done as only the DNA can. With aerial art tricks for Ariel the air spirit the play takes a visually stunning approach to this classic Bard tale, and brings forth enchanting design elements well befitting Prospero’s magic.
The show’s overall design premise comes from company Artistic Director Kel Millionie. The sound design that sets the unsettling ambiance pre-show is quite stunning. A foreboding sound, almost like a submarine exploring the aquatic depths in the middle of the stark black night, punctuated at random intervals by unearthly moans and sighs; a soundscape that creates a rich atmosphere upon which the play unfurls. Millionie’s use of the sliding panels in his set design enhances the wonder and magic of the aerial artists as they are revealed and concealed in illusory fashion.
Unique and breathtaking beauty is showcased in this particular production by way of Aerial Coordination Artist Elle Brande. Using the masterful art of aerial acrobatics to augment the mystical elements of the show, Brande brings a fresh perspective to magical realism. Stringing Ariel up in white sheets for his elevated stunts is the perfect juxtaposition of his wild and unruly nature flushed against the bonds of his servitude. Having Ferdinand free-swinging in a thrilling series of acrobatics during the actual tempest is visually stunning. The gods and spirits, and even the Kraken; all find themselves to be a part of the air-spectacular. Brande’s stunt routines are graceful and fluid; full of lively motion while mildly hypnotic, a titillating experience to behold.
Millionie’s success in this production, beyond the wonders of the aerial acrobatics comes from the subtle nuances unearthed in the characters. While there were minor pacing issues, the overall impact these characters created made up for these instances.
Trinculo (Erin Boots) and Stephano (William R. McHattie) have somewhat more of a flirtatious relationship, subtly sexual and more subdued in their natures than is generally portrayed. Boots makes the character docile with a simple comedic edge while McHattie boisterously belts his drunken singing. The pair work well on stage together, especially once Caliban (Tony Byrd) gets involved.
Playing the urchin of the island, Byrd adapts the delicate nature of Caliban’s sycophantic side; loving laving attentions on both Prospero and Stephano respectively during moments of sheer adoration. Byrd’s physical approach to the character is deeply involved, using his full body to express emotions, particularly fury when he begins slamming sticks about on the ground. Keeping a crouched form he physically translates the pains of his indentured servitude.
It wouldn’t be a Shakespearean classic without the young lovers, in this case Miranda (Cori Dioquino) and Ferdinand (Greg Bowen). Dioquino plays Miranda with an ethereal essence in her stage presence. She is rather a dream of Miranda more so than Miranda herself and it is a most interesting approach to the character. Her soft floating voice dotes upon Ferdinand, even her movements are wisp-like, the stuffs upon which dreams are made.
Bowen, with his eager curiosity of the island, makes a lovely shape when dangling from the ‘rigging’ of the ship in the storm. When he takes to pacing restlessly about in search of Ariel’s music, his body is buzzing with a frenetic need to explore, to discover; an unyielding quest for knowledge that bursts out through his continual movement. The chemistry that burbles gently between them is quite sweet, if a bit bland; together the pair make the right fit for the love expected of the young ingenues.
The master of the show, a sprightly fleeting dream, Ariel (Tom Martin) captivates and stimulates your senses with his every movement. Coming at the beckon call of Prospero (Rena Brault) Martin’s physicality is that of wind; churning about and contorting as if the air were the only thing to move him. His aerial acrobatics, especially during his initial appearance, are pure amazement. Even when he’s ground-bound his body moves with a strangely pleasing opposition of forces, as if trying to be languid and tempered all at once.
Fly thee to The Tempest – a well-executed and perfectly compacted version of the Bard’s comedy/drama, with a little magic in the air.
Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, with no intermission.
William Shakespeare’s The Tempest plays through August 31, 2013 at Daydreams and Nightmares Aerial Theatre at The Baltimore Theatre Project— 45 West Preston Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410)752-8558, or purchase them online.