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The Tempest 

The magic of Cal Shakes' production lies in its performances

Wednesday, Oct 19 2005
Of all Shakespeare's plays, The Tempest gives directors perhaps the greatest opportunity to cast spells on the audience. It's not just to do with the bewitching poetry and the sorcery-infused plot -- in which Prospero, a banished duke with magical powers living in exile with his daughter, Miranda, on a mysterious island, calls forth a raging sea storm to bring about revenge on his enemies -- but also the many scenes that invite inventive staging. Lillian Groag, the director of California Shakespeare Theater's new production, is something of a Prospero herself, for this Tempest glimmers with enchantment. Playful spirits dressed in white Asian-style suits with kabukilike makeup and elaborate hair decorations dart about the simple sandy island setting; tiny lights twinkle in the trees behind the open-backed stage; smoke billows out from beneath the banqueting table to help Prospero's hardworking spirit, Ariel, scare the bejesus out of the vengeful duke's shipwrecked foes. Not that this production relies upon bells and whistles to weave its spell: The true magic lies in performances such as Mhari Sandoval's liquid-lithe Ariel and Anthony Fusco's surly Prospero, as well as in the production's ethereal design, lighting, and sound.

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Chloe Veltman


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