Under the sharp direction of Michael Jones, The Tempest is one of Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park’s best presentations of a Bard play in some time.
Jones has assembled a top-notch cast, led by Hal Kohlman as Prospero. The second scene is a lengthy exposition in which Prospero tells his daughter Miranda how they came from Milan to an enchanted island somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. It takes an actor of Kohlman’s experience and projecting ability to hold the audience’s attention during this disquisition.
David Mays is equally effective as the spirit Ariel. Painted blue from head to toe and wearing only harem pants, Mays flits about the stage, working his magic in an effort to satisfy his master Prospero and, subsequently, gain his freedom.
An unrecognizable Ben Hall as Caliban emerges from the moat surrounding the Water Stage looking like the Creature from the Myriad Gardens Lagoon. Hall is excellent as the tormented “savage,” who’s more or less a prisoner of Prospero.
Still, given the show’s stage, one wonders why Jones couldn’t find a way to incorporate some of the pond into the first scene in which a ship bearing dignitaries from Naples and Milan is tempest-tossed.
Much of the acting is outstanding. Don Taylor as the jester and Jon Haque as the drunken butler are highly engaging. Rebecca Ashton and Hunter Paul make a handsome couple as young lovers Miranda and Ferdinand.
Rick Reeves’ scenic design consists mainly of what looks like three parachutes draped over much of the stage with colored lights (by Reeves and Leslie M. Currell) under them. The lighting is much more effective in Act 2, after the sun sets.
Robert Pittenridge’s costumes look like a mixture of seaweed and mud. His consistently fine work is becoming a hallmark of OSP productions. Jaime Whitmarsh composed the New Agesounding score.
The Tempest includes a lot of magic, and Jones’ staging is spot-on. The spirits are at different times visible or invisible to the other characters, and Jones’ thoughtful direction at all times clarifies the action and the story.
He ends the play with a scene not written by Shakespeare. Ariel and Caliban appear onstage together. Caliban looks to Ariel for guidance, and they spread their arms like wings, free at last.