To be original, sometimes you must take risks. To be original while performing Shakespeare is doubly dangerous, as any alterations to such sacred text might backfire completely. Alex Katz, CC ’14, directing King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe’s “The Tempest,” rolled the dice on a production that this reviewer can only describe as brilliant.
Since there are two narratives within the play, Katz decided to split the cast in two, sending one narrative off in one direction, and dispatching the second narrative the opposite way. In doing so, he gave Shakespeare the structure of a choose-your-own-adventure story, and left it to the audience members to decide whom to follow.
I decided to follow the ethereal spirits that inhabit the island, and so will only be able to offer an opinion on those actors and scenes. I would recommend brushing up on the story beforehand, so that you can make an informed decision about which direction to go in.
Trapped on an all-but-uninhabited island for 12 years, Prospero, played by David Gassett, GS ’15, a magician and the deposed duke of Milan, has finally claimed his revenge. With the help of Ariel and Umbriel (Jaq King, CC ’17, and Raquel Chavez, CC ’14), his faithful spirits, he shipwrecks his usurping brother and his shipmates upon the island. Among those onboard is Ferdinand (Alex Dabertin, CC ’15), son of the king of Naples, who washes ashore alone near Miranda (Devin Lloyd, CC ’15), Prospero’s daughter. The two immediately fall in love, but Ferdinand is forced to serve Prospero in order to prove himself worthy.
Throughout the play, Gassett was unfortunately monotonic, never delving into the more human aspects of Prospero. His moments of sadness or contemplation were rushed over, and his most famous lines barely hung in the air before they were dashed aside. Fortunately, Lloyd and Dabertin, both veterans of the Columbia stage, made a wonderful couple, playing off of each other perfectly. King and Chavez, whose dual performance of Ariel was another intelligent innovation, were wonderfully Puck-like in their glee and antics.
While the lovers become acquainted, two others, the drunkards Trinculo and Stephanie (Ian Hewitt, CC ’17, and Kayla van de Bunt, CC ’14), wash up on shore farther off. There, they come across one of Prospero’s servants, the monstrous Caliban. Plying him with alcohol, they charm him into serving them. Caliban (Taha Wiheba, CC ’16), a brute of a beast, attempts to lead these drunks to overthrow and murder Prospero, but they are discovered.
These three were a glorious fount of laughter for all. Wiheba’s Caliban left nothing to be desired, using volume and motion to the fullest extent to embody the fearsome creature and his turn toward inebriation. As his companions, Hewitt and van de Bunt were exceptional, playing the fools with jocularity and wit.
Not only was the acting generally of top-quality, but also the music, singing, dancing, and motion of the ensemble enriched the atmosphere profoundly. The play seemed to whiz by, but the half I viewed made me ravenous for more, and I hope to return to complete the play.
There is an immutability surrounding this troupe and its spring show. While the Varsity Show might be hit or miss, while Barnard Theatre Department shows might be lackluster, the KCST spring show is consistently a marvelous production. It is truly the acme of Columbia theater.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Taha Wiheba’s school and year as CC ’17. It is actually CC ’16. Spectator regrets the error.