Asheville – While Shakespeare’s The Tempest is often done as a solemn and serious play, Montford Park Players’ director Dwight Chiles has created a production that rises and falls like a yacht caught in an unexpected storm.
And what a delightful and magical storm it is!
I was unfamiliar with this work, but Chiles summed it up nicely in his playbill note, “This play is about Revenge, Family, Power, Love and above all else, Forgiveness. It may be one of the hardest things for a human to do. To forgive. These days, it seems more and more difficult. But it can be done. Let Prospero, Miranda, a Royal Family, a couple of Fools, and Island spirits show you what freedom comes with forgiveness.”
Still true to the story, Chiles has also added a jukebox musical flair. Set in the 1990s, with a soundtrack by Celine Dion and whirling, intricate, Broadway-esque choreography by Kristi DeVille, this is unlike any other Shakespeare production you have ever experienced.
From the opening musical number, we in the audience were swept away by ludicrous, charming, and sometimes heartbreaking characters.
Chiles also designed the set, turning the outdoor stage into desert island with very little, and yet accomplishing everything.
Solidifying the otherworldly ambiance, combined with the opening shipwreck, costume designer Fable Wilde Day and puppet designer Kayren McKnight added wonderful elements of texture, movement and illuminated the archetypal characters being portrayed.
If you’re like me and rarely understand what’s happening in a traditional Shakespeare play, this cast changes all of that. The skill, trust, and physicality of these actors cannot be overstated. Not only will you completely comprehend everything that is being said and done, but they will draw you completely into their world if you let them.
They will bring you flashes of rage and heart-tugging poignancy. Even the darker aspects of this tale are interwoven with compassion, understanding and unparalleled humor. And there is so much humor. Every type of humor. From slapstick to razor sarcasm to the countless moments of such unexpected hilarity that you won’t even notice your own thunderous laugh until it is ejected from your body.
Speaking of loud laughter, Montford Park Players’ Executive Director John Russell has recently added to their curtain speech. This theater has always encouraged their patrons to be vocal. Over the years however, the issue of some audience members trying to quiet anyone who laughs loudly or emotes vocally has overtaken many venues across the country.
The result is that many people no longer attend live productions. Russell’s speech encourages all audience members to fully enjoy their experience. Being vocal with their emotions, giving in to their hearty laughter, and inspiring them to view these shows as an interactive endeavor.
It has made a monumental positive difference to both the actors onstage, and those in attendance.
The Tempest is definitely a show that will entice you to emote audibly and enthusiastically. From shouts of encouragement to uproarious laughter to sighs and “awww”s. You’ll most likely even find yourself singing and clapping along with the wondrous Celine Dion.
The one comment I have heard repeatedly from people who have seen the show is they didn’t realize until intermission that they had been smiling almost the entire time. I have seen three performances and I still find myself smiling throughout as well.
Montford Park Players’ The Tempest is at 7:30 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through Saturday, September 30th.
Parkway Playhouse Theater’s First “Appalachian Playwriting Festival” on September 8–10.
As described in their press release, “This festival will feature staged readings of plays written by Appalachian Playwrights or playwrights that have a close connection to Appalachia and includes stories of the people and culture of the Appalachian Region.”
The festival’s founder, Cheyenne Dancy explained her motivation for its creation. “As a 12th generation Appalachian, preserving Appalachian Culture is often at the forefront of my mind and something I always keep in my heart. I write about it often in my plays and incorporate it heavily into my art. When our Executive Director, Marci Bernstein, mentioned that she’d like to see some sort of program for new works here at Parkway Playhouse, I lept on the opportunity to give Appalachian voices and stories a microphone.”
More information on the plays, actors, directors, and performances can be found at ParkwayPlayhouse.com.