REVIEW: Great Lakes Theater’s “The Tempest”



Hanna Theater’s stage didn’t look like much before Great Lakes Theater’s latest show, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, actually started. There was one two-story metal structure covered in see-through mirrors, flanked by two panels towered on both sides of the stage.

But it would be deceiving to say the set “wasn’t much.”

Hidden tricks soon won over the audience during the opening storm scene, where a rising sail created a silhouetted argument scene, and a giant plastic tarp wave flowed over the ship and washed everyone onboard into the sea. Of course, no water was needed to portray any of this, as the loud booming of simulated thunder filled the room.

On April 11, opening night of GLT’s latest show, it was clear that this wasn’t just another classical rendition of The Tempest. Whether it was some of the modern costuming, sci-fi lighting or the light raunchy humor, this version retained enough of the play’s original elements to be recognizable. Still, the performance broke away from tradition and embraced GLT’s unique representation.

Many cute, relatable moments came up in the play, especially between Prospero (D.A. Smith) and Miranda (Katie Willmorth). When Prospero channeled his inner angry dad and yelled, “One word more,” threateningly towards Miranda, she zipped her mouth as quickly as a young daughter would in the face of punishment. Or, there was also the time when Prospero lingered over Ferdinand (Patrick Riley) and Miranda as they kissed and warned, “No tongue!”

The chemistry between Ferdinand and Miranda was convincing from the start, and culminated when Willmorth’s portrayal of Miranda brought her down to one knee for a humorous proposal to Ferdinand.

The play changed pace whenever Trinculo (Dustin Tucker) and Stephano (Tom Ford) enacted their hysterical, drunken adventures onstage. A couple of moments were almost a bit too awkward, especially when Stephano pretend-vomited a mouthful of water on Trinculo’s head, or when Caliban (a superb J. Todd Adams) rammed his face directly into Trinculo’s crotch in a drunken fit.

Despite his awkward scene, Caliban was certainly the star of the show. With his pale white skin, vibrant eye contacts and makeup that seemed inspired by A Clockwork Orange, Adams transformed into a monster when crawling out from under the stage and hollering profanities. Stooped over and sick-looking, his every moment of acting was intense, whether it was smearing his lips over Stephano’s shoe for a foot-kiss, or cowering back from Prospero at the end of the play in palpable hesitance.

Throughout the show, the strongest and most identifiable theme was the mirror, which included the giant mirror box in the middle of the stage, strange sequin-monsters who circled the stage with reflective plates and the glittering silver confetti raining from the ceiling. In every scene, at every moment, something was constantly reflected back in on itself.

These moments reminded the audience that while The Tempest was written hundreds of years ago, it can still show a glimpse of human nature today.

GLT’s performance did just that, and reflected the perpetual themes of love, rage and, most importantly, forgiveness.

‘The Tempest’ will continue at the Hanna Theater until April 26, 2015. Tickets are $13-70.