Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The review of "The Tempest" didn't make it into this week's Style. Not sure why -- e-mail fired off to Arts editor to try to ascertain the situation.

But until it does, here's what I wrote. Not sure how it will appear in print. Enjoy.

Shelters in the Storm
Music, blithe spirit buoy Richmond Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”
By David Timberline (357 words)

As befits its title, “The Tempest” is a whirlwind of emotion. Like none other of Shakespeare’s plays, this brilliant mash-up of comedy and tragedy churns with errant themes of love, betrayal, music and magic. It is comparatively thin plotwise, however, as if the immortal Bard decided to give himself over to the passions of the heart without undo concern for the intellect.

In Richmond Shakespeare Theatre’s merry and sometimes manic production of “The Tempest,” currently playing at Agecroft Hall, the calm at the center of this storm is provided by Stephen Lorne Williams as Prospero. Williams has an impressive history with “The Tempest:” thirty years ago, he played Prospero’s trusty fairy assistant, Ariel, in a Royal National Theatre production opposite John Gielgud. But while Williams has the pedigree for the role, I found his Prospero a bit staid. Ironically, it is this production’s Ariel, played by the remarkable Graham Birce, who infuses significant charm and vigor into the proceedings.

It is Ariel who Prospero sends off to implement the many components of his plan. Having been stranded on a lonely island for twelve years, Prospero has become an adept magician and raises a storm that shipwrecks his enemies. Years before, they had stripped him of his title as Duke of Milan, then set him adrift with his infant daughter, Miranda (played with delightful fervor by Liz Blake), who has since has grown into a comely maid. The storm will also bring her a suitor, Prince Ferdinand (Matt Polson). Using his sprightly magic, Ariel brings Miranda and Ferdinand together; undermines Prospero’s treacherous brother, Antonio (Andy Nagraj); and befuddles a trio of would-be assassins, led by the evil witch-spawn, Caliban (David White).

Amidst all of this, Birce moves about spryly in black Converse sneakers, plays violin beautifully, sings enchanting songs, and even walks on stilts. He is assisted by Andrew Hamm and his Foolhardy Band; their playful array of songs and incidental melodies serve as a perfect compliment to the action. There are other exceptional performances in this production: White’s Caliban, for instance, is memorably earthy and bitter. But ultimately it’s Graham Birce that stands out in the storm.

“The Tempest” plays Thursday – Sunday at Agecroft Hall until July 8th. Tickets are $13-$24. Call 232-4000 for details.


Andrew Hamm said...


Thanks for sharing that with us. I was a bit baffled by the omission in this week's Style.

Graham is great. You should have seen his Mephistopheles.

Andrew Hamm said...

357 words. Wow.

I can guess how frustrating it must be for you to refine your reviews to such a short length. I imagine you'd love to be able to go into more detail.

Frank Creasy, for example. What a guy!

Frank Creasy said...

If Andrew Hamm wrote reviews, I guess my career would be all set!

Dave, your candor in the critique process is appreciated. It's good to see a review that comes from a perspective of "one man's opinion", even if it is an informed and discerning opinion, as opposed to some who purports to speak on behalf of the whole audience.

Still, Andrew points out a concern that would probably confound ME if I were in your's hard to be both extremely concise and comprehensive at the same time. Sometimes you leave out comments you'd like to include, no doubt, that are complimentary; at other times, I suspect an unflattering comment is easily left out if it regards a role that is not a featured player. Either way, it's no harm. But I can imagine the choices to be made are not easy and are carefully considered.