Sunday, July 17, 2022

DelShakes' Festival Roars Back into Rockwood with "The Tempest"

By Mike Logothetis
Theater reviewer Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.

Stephano tugs at a covered Trinculo as Caliban looks on. Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Delaware Shakespeare’s revered Summer Festival is back at historic Rockwood Park in Wilmington with a spirited production of The Tempest. Producing Artistic Director David Stradley points out that the play is “...about what happens when you encounter chaos. And that certainly is apt. We’ve all been through quite a tempest in the last few years.” Agreed.

But what happens on stage is neither chaos nor merely a tale to “cure deafness.” The classic story centered on vengeance is put together quite nicely with a flowing style that is paced to perfection.

Also the show’s director, Stradley states: “The play asks us to consider what we do when someone has wronged us and also how we respond when we have wronged someone else. These are powerful questions to consider as a community.”

The Tempest is a tale of forgiveness and family. The show begins with the titular storm that Prospero conjures to bring his seafaring enemies to the island where he lives. The sorcerer and former Duke of Milan was usurped by his treacherous brother, Antonio, who took his dukedom with help from the Queen of Naples. After escaping by boat with his infant daughter Miranda, Prospero plots his revenge and uses his magical powers to keep the island’s only inhabitant (Caliban) as a slave and a local spirit (Ariel) as a servant. He torments the shipwreck survivors by separating them into groups which he can manipulate as he fancies. 

But now that his enemies are within reach, will Prospero exact his long-awaited revenge? Can forgiveness be found in recognizing the blossoming love between Miranda and the Prince of Naples (Ferdinand)? And, in the end, what should become of Ariel and Caliban?

Stradley emphasizes: “Everybody [on the island] either has either done something wrong or had something wrong done to them, and they’re all on this journey about how to move forward together as a community. That’s also something that we’re wrestling with maybe more now than we were — when things go wrong, how we reconnect and move forward together.”

Ariel threatens Queen Alonsa, Sebastian, and Antonio.
Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
Prospero is played by Jolie Garrett, who makes his DelShakes debut this summer. Garrett is able to successfully move from moments of serenity to those of anger convincingly, effectively showing Prospero’s mood swings and on-edge personality.

Lexi Thammavong is captivating as the fairy Ariel, who does Prospero’s bidding in hopes of one day earning her freedom from servitude. Thammavong is lithe and spritely – flitting between the disparate groups to cause mayhem or mend rifts.

The physical Gerrad Alex Taylor brought empathy to the “monster” Caliban. The dehumanized character only wants what’s rightly his, but is never fully acquitted the dignity he deserves. Only the drunkards Stephano and Trinculo – exceptionally played by Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez and Jack O’Neill – give Caliban some modicum of respect. Plus, they delivered all the best jokes from their pieces of the script. Note: Due to a COVID-19 case, Trinculo’s original player Matthew Johnston had to sit out Opening Night.

The stage is a multi-angled space with a round flat center, which allows for dynamic action for all of the audience seated around it. Movements are easily followed and the innovative lighting set the various moods well.

If Shakespeare intimidates you, there is a pre-show orientation. Forty minutes prior to curtain, two actors from the production offer insight of the play. Plus, several of the actors out on an engaging comedic pre-show utilizing themes from The Tempest.

The Summer Festival will be employing “Pay-What-You-Decide” ticket pricing this year. The three price options are $10, $20, or $30. There is no student or group pricing in 2022. Children age 5 and under are free. Every Sunday is “Family Night,” with special activities before the performance and free admission for children 12 and under when accompanied by a paying adult. 

 To buy tickets, go to www.delshakes.org or purchase at the door. Curtain is at 7:30pm from Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 6:00pm on Sundays. Gates open at 6:15pm for pre-show entertainment and picnics Wednesday through Saturday and at 4:45pm on Sundays. The festival concludes its run on July 31.

Attendees are invited to bring their own chairs, blankets, and picnic baskets to Rockwood Park. Alcoholic beverages are allowed on the grounds for those of legal age. If you have a particularly lush spread, let the staff know and be entered to win the Janssen’s Market Picnic Contest. DelShakes will take a picture of your picnic and post it on social media with other entries each week. At the end of the run, a favorite picnic will be selected as champion. The winner will receive a gift certificate to Janssens’ Market, tickets to the 2023 Summer Festival, and all-important bragging rights.

A limited number of reserved lawn chairs are available at each performance. These “Saved Seats” are set up in premium locations in the first row of the “lawn chairs” section, behind blankets and low-backed beach chairs. Reservations must be made in advance and cost $42.

The Delaware Shakespeare VIP Tent provides a place for groups of 10 or more to gather with clients, colleagues, and friends before the show. VIP Tent packages can be customized to include catered picnics, wine, reserved seats, and more.

Concessions tents will feature picnic-appropriate sandwiches and snacks from Janssen’s Market as well as soft drinks, candy, Delaware Shakespeare t-shirts, wine from Swigg, and beer…specialty beer.

New sponsor Stitch House & Brewery has crafted a Belgian Saison named “Strange Bedfellows” specifically for the Summer Festival. (The beer is named after Trinculo’s line in Act 2: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”) Enjoy a pint at the show! Note: Strange Bedfellows is now on tap at Stitch House, where $1 from every sale will go to DelShakes.

The 2022 Delaware Shakespeare season will include two full productions – the current Summer Festival (The Tempest from July 15-31) and a fall Community Tour (a bilingual musical adaptation of Twelfth Night). The dates for the Community Tour are yet to be determined.

As an outdoor event, no masks or vaccine status will be required for audience members. Policies may change based on public health conditions at the time of the event. DelShakes artists will be fully vaccinated and engaged in testing protocols.

Don’t be a hater (see Prospero) and go experience the show. Remember: “The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance."

2 comments:

  1. Good Morning, Just reaching out again to provide correct information for this article. Matthew Johnston performed the role of Ferdinand for Tyler Elliott who unfortunately was not able to perform.

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