I have seen numerous live and screen productions of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but Cincinnati Shakespeare Company‘s just-completed run of the play was the finest.
It was a magical Tempest and a fitting farewell to the cozy confines of their home of twenty years at 719 Race Street in Cincinnati (the company moves to the brand new Otto M. Budig Theater at Twelfth and Elm in Over-the-Rhine in time for the start of the 2017-2018 season in September).
The lovely Robin and I attended last Thursday’s performance, and it was a delight from beginning to end. Entering the theater in time for the “dumb show” the company presents before Thursday performances (a practice that will continue in the new theater), I joked that it was a shame they didn’t have time to create a set (see photo above). The theater walls and stage were draped with large swaths of fabric and otherwise empty except for a light bulb on a stand and two small scaffolds. However, those accoutrements were used to excellent and varied effect throughout the production.
The performance was flawless. Nicholas Rose was predictably perfect as Prospero (he’s a veteran of the CSC stage). Aiden Sims as Miranda was delightfully charming, acting as much with her demeanor and expression as with her spot-on delivery of lines. Caitlin McWethy’s portrayal of Ariel was a mesmerizing blend of power and vulnerability; she is now my favorite Ariel of all. The rest of the cast, every one, deserves mention, from Geoffrey Warren Barnes II’s athletic Caliban to Cary Davenport’s musical contributions and beyond.
In true Shakespearean fashion (but with non-Elizabethan rhythms), the performance nearly concluded (but not quite) with a couple entertaining jigs, after which the cast flowed through the theater, yanking down the draping fabric from walls and stage–even the back of the stage, giving the audience a view of a bare stage and backstage. The cast gathered onstage behind a single light bulb on a stand as Nicholas Rose expertly delivered the famous epilogue (from “Now my charms are all o’erthrown” to “Let your indulgence set me free”). The standing ovation that followed–and the tears in many eyes, including some in the cast–was not only for a sterling performance but also for twenty years of memories and magic at 719 Race Street.