Irvine Drama Produces an Impressive and Magical ‘Tempest’

‘The Tempest’ is believed to be William Shakespeare’s final play written independently and boy, did he go out with a bang. It is his farewell to the stage and a true testament to his skill.
‘The Tempest’ is a comedy which follows Prospero, the banished Duke of Milan, marooned on an island that he has taken as his own.
The play follows three separate stories. Prospero searches for a suitor for his daughter Miranda while a party of royal family members stranded on the island searches for the queen’s missing son lost in the tempest. Lastly, there is the story of the two fools who try to kill Prospero with the savage Caliban, Prospero’s unwilling servant.
Even though these stories are separate for much of the play, it seems as though Prospero and his sprite Ariel are orchestrating all of the actions happening onstage.
UC Irvine’s performance of Shakespeare’s last hurrah, performed at Winifred Smith Hall from Jan. 25 to 27, was magical, to say the least.
This was Shakespeare’s only play to follow the three unities, supposedly derived from Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’: the unity of action, place and time. Scenic designer Darcy Prevost, lighting designer Jen Goldstein and Choreographer Marissa Moses worked these unities to the play’s advantage.
The beautiful set was so full of life, color and numerous entrances that it was easy to believe that the Winifred Smith Hall’s small stage was an entire island. When scenes were changing, the dances and subtle movements of the ‘Spirits of the Island’ transformed the same set into numerous different areas. It was a surreal experience.
As Prospero, Professor Keith Fowler’s stage presence was so demanding that he commanded the audience’s attention even when he was merely standing on a ledge taking notes and watching the other characters.
Ashley Moniz, as the sprite Ariel, charmed the audience as soon as she hit the stage. She and her spirits’ dances set the island’s mood. Her beautiful voice made not only the characters on the stage want to follow her commands, but the audience as well. Her infectious smile and energy made the show even more of a joy to watch.
As Caliban, Evans Eden Jarnefeldt showed his incredible range as an actor. After his performance in ‘La Celestina’ as the mild-mannered Sempronio, it’s hard to believe that he was the same person, and from his portrayal of both the tortured and humorous sides of Caliban it became obvious that there isn’t much he can’t do on stage.
Despite the strong performances from everyone involved, Adrian Alita and Tyler Seiple stole the show as the drunken minstrels Stephano and Trinculo.
Director Brian Sivesind might have known this. He put the two to work even before the audience had taken their seats. The masked duo silently played tricks on the audience as they waited for the show to begin.
The pair was the beneficiary of a few recurring jokes and some alterations to the script. One ingenious change to the script was the switch in Trinculo’s sexual orientation. Also hilarious, especially to those in the loop, was the reference to the popular TV cartoon ‘Family Guy.’
When Trinculo is first seen on the island, he tripped over a tree branch and, like Peter Griffin, hissed at the pain on his knee over and over again.
Just as everything began to work out for the heroes