Department Conjures Up The Perfect Storm

The New Paltz Theater Department’s production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” turned what could have been a shipwreck into a smooth-sailing performance.

Having never read the romantic comedy, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into by seeing the show without looking up a synopsis beforehand. Big mistake.

Considering the nature of the antiquated jargon, there were many lines I didn’t pick up on and several nuances that flew straight over my head.

Regardless of my initial lack of understanding of the play’s content, the consistent acting from the shining stars of the department was more than enough to carry the production straight through.

Directed by Associate Professor Nancy Saklad and set designed by Assistant Professor Ken Goldstein, the major visual choices made were grand, yet tastefully executed.

The large, low-hanging moon, periodically doubling as a clock, looked unbelievably realistic, as did the post-tempested ship several passengers had been traveling to Italy on.

The production’s protagonist and former Dutchess of Milan, Prospera, played by Assistant Professor and the show’s Movement Director Connie Rotunda, was absolutely exquisite in her performance.

Banished to the island on which Queen Alonsa, played by fourth-year theater performance major Julia Register, the royal party and her mariners found themselves shipwrecked; Prospera’s possession and use of magical knowledge gave her the ability to conjure the tempest which brought together characters of differing fortunes on one deserted island.

Rotunda’s movements, which ranged from grand to gentle, exuded both power and maternal protection throughout.

I understand why the part would not have been able to be played by a student — the vast wisdom and experience it was necessary for Prospera’s character to give off could only have been translated through a more seasoned actor.

Prospera’s spirit helper, Ariel, played by third-year theater performance major Brittany Martel, was a similarly gentle character.

A spirit whose freedom served as the production’s finale, the costume choice to conceal Ariel’s face — arguably someone’s most distint personality trait — was a very insightful one, as it communicated the level of devotion to Prospera Ariel retained until the last scene.

Every one of Martel’s movements was graceful and delicate, and I especially appreciated the almost angelic audio manipulation of her voice every time she spoke.

Trinculo, who served as Queen Alonsa’s jester and Stephano, the drunken butler, were two comedic relief-esque characters played by fourth-year theater performance major Anika Krempl and fourth-year theater performance major Mike O’Connor, respectively.

Their ridiculous antics and altogether hilarious demeanor brightened up the stage each time they stumbled and sprawled out across it.

One component of the show I appreciated was the gender-bending within characters who were traditionally male (read: Prospero, King Alonso and Trinkulo). This stray from tradition was one I found tasteful and progressive.

One point in the show, when the waters’ flow was wrongly redirected, however, was during the nymph dance break, accompanied by the all-too contemporary background music. I applaud the creative team for attempting to add their own flare to this classic tale, but those waves crashed a bit too hard for my liking.

Overall, however, “The Tempest” was a wonderful recreation of a timeless romantic comedy that was able to communicate the poignancy and relevance of theater, regardless of the time period of origin.