Burrows’ ASP goodbye: A not-so-stormy ‘Tempest’
BROOKLINE – Allyn Burrows is saying goodbye to Actors Shakespeare Project, if not to The Bard himself, as he leaves ASP to join Lenox-based Shakespeare & Company.
On the way out the door, he has directed a production of “The Tempest” at Willet Hall at the United Parish Church that is not roiling with revenge as many “Tempests” are. Instead, it features Marya Lowry as the sorcerer Prospero, who while eager to address past wrongs, leans more to correction than destruction in making things right. It is power tempered by mercy.
Perhaps in keeping with the character’s different mien, Burrows has cast women in several other roles usually played by men.
After being cast adrift 12 years before due to the treachery of her brother Antonio (Thomas Grenon) — who with the aid of the armies of Alonso (Mara Sidmore) usurped her as ruler of Milan — “The Tempest” opens with Prospero ruling the desert island where she has found refuge with her daughter Miranda (Lydia Barnett-Mulligan). She enjoys whipping up trouble with a violent storm that will force Alonso, Antonio and their parties to take refuge on her island.
Barnett-Mulligan’s portrayal of Miranda has a playful side but also boasts a steely spine, which makes it unlikely she will fall victim to the heinous servant Caliban (Jesse Hinson), who had threatened her virtue in the past.
Prospero’s various spells and schemes, aided by the spirit Ariel, will later see Miranda conked in the head by love/lust upon her pre-arranged meeting with Ferdinand (Kai Tshikosi) – the son of Alonso whom Alonso feared was lost at sea — forcing Prospero to throw some water on the budding fire to temporarily tamp it down.
Samantha Richert brings a mischievous grace to Ariel, the spirit who bargains for her freedom with Prospero while doing the “dirty work” that will allow Prospero to eventually gain the upper hand on her enemies.
“The Tempest” is widely believed to be Shakespeare’s final solo work, boasting perhaps his most original plot line and some of his most unforgettable characters.
This show is smartly staged with strong production values. It doesn’t have the dazzle of the American Repertory Theater’s 2014 production, which was fine, but almost groaned under the weight of its spectacular special effects by Teller.
Here Hinson’s Caliban – the son of the witch who once inhabited the island — is more pitiful than fearful, cowering, sniveling and tamed at the foot of his mistress, a once threatening presence devolved into a vengeful servant only too eager to see harm come to his master.
Opportunity knocks on the door in the form of the butler Stephano (Michael Forden Walker), who injects a generous bit of alcohol into the proceedings, turning himself, Trinculo (Sidmore), and Caliban into walking impressions of the late comic Foster Brooks.
Sidmore, while quite strong as Alonso, doesn’t fare quite as the tippling, scheming Trinculo, but the tippling trio does have some fine comic moments as they plot Prospero’s demise, only to be foiled by Ariel.
Nonpareil costume designer Tyler Kinney wears the scenic designer hat here, and his interpretation of Prospero’s island refuge is that of elements of a sailing vessel complete with tackle, pulleys and sails that double as screens for light and projections.
Arshan Gailus’ effective sound design and whimsical incidental music set the right tone for the direction Burrows takes the play.
This “Tempest” boasts a lighter touch than other more heavy-handed productions, with Burrows’ unconventional casting no doubt playing a role. It offers strong entertainment value for the remainder of the holiday season as it runs through Jan. 8.
The Actors Shakespeare Project production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” Directed by Allyn Burrows. At Willet Hall at United Parish of Brookline through Jan. 8. actorsshakespeareproject.org.