The cast bursts into the Tenth Street Theatre at the opening of the show. The stage seems like a random collection of wreckage collected from a beach, which makes sense. This is Bard & Borubon’s production of The Tempest. In keeping with tradition for the company, the show is very fluid with really all actors present on stage throughout the production. There is minimal sat and lots of little props (including puppets and masks by Keighley Sadler) and costume elements (stylishly designed on a tight budget by Liz Shipe) which are gracefully glided through on stage in the course of the production.
Joel Kopischke plays the wizard and displaced nobleman Prospero with considerable vigor. Kopischke has impressive vitality in the role of an old man on a distant island far from traditional civilization. More than merely energetic, Kopischke has a whimsical warmth on stage that doesn’t compromise the actor’s solidly grounded gravitas.
B&B newcomer Rayne Kleinofen is sparklingly endearing as Prospero’s daughter Miranda. The rule allows a actress to really dive into the full emotionality of falling in love. Doing shell on a stage as small as the 10th St., Theatre means that she’s able to exhibit all the signs of falling in love in a very subtle way. Kleinofen is positively radiant as a young woman falling in love for the first time. There’s equal humor and fire in her performance. (It's SO much fun watching her fall in love.)
Grace DeWolff is allowed similar opportunities for subtlety in her performance as the magical spirit Ariel. All too often in performances of supernatural beings in productions of this sort of fantasy, there’s a sense of joy and exuberance in the entities in question. Particularly ones that engage in mischief the way Ariel does. It’s a nice way to play that type of role that is engaging to the audience but it doesn’t feel very well lived in. DeWolff for a more natural and subtle performance as a being of magical power to home magic is something as simple as walking down the street. No need to exaggerate emotion or excitement or anything of that nature. No need to exaggerate any kind of emotion. DeWolff ingeniously allows the character’s casual subtlety to become its own kind of fantasy. Though she does run the risk of underplaying the wonder of a magical being on stage, she knows what she’s doing and she knows how to catch and audiences attention with out the sort of desperation that can often accompany such an endeavor. It’s quite a performance.
Also inhabiting the island is the half human/half monster Caliban, played by Ashley Retzlaff. There’s some distinctly graceful crudeness to Retzlaff’s performance which makes a striking contrast with her performance as the elder Gonzalo who finds himself stranded in the island with a few others due to a nasty storm that has brought them to the island. Retzlaff has nimble comic instincts that serve both characters quite well.
Madeline Wakley and Ro Spice-Kopischke are great fun as Trinculo and Stephano—a couple of Castaways who are soon befriended by Caliban due to the strange alchemy of alcohol. Spice-Kopischke has a playfully dominant presence as Caliban’s new earthbound god. Wakley is clever with her portrayal of a character who could easily come across as a buffoon. Wakley isn’t a fool here. She’s merely the one foolish enough to follow another fool. There’s clever dignity in that which adds to the comedy of the character.
It’s a very well-crafted performance throughout. Director Samantha Martinson has quite a cast to work with here. The ensemble dynamic of a Bard & Bourbon show is as much fun as the show itself. The sense of synthesis between every member of the cast is a s fun to watch in the foreground with characters who are performing as it is to watch the actors in the background preparing for the next moment. Everything moves so swimmingly through the chaos of The Tempest. It’s as relaxing as it is inspiring. The world’s a mess. Maybe if we get the right cast together we can sort everything out.
Bard & Bourbon’s The Tempest (Drunk) runs through May 27 at the Tenth Street Theatre on 628 N. 10th St. For ticket reservations, visit the show’s page on Brown Paper Ticket.