The Tempest thrills at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
William Shakespeare’s late Romance The Tempest is now onstage at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival until August 6, 2023. 
Everyone knows the story. Set in Shakespeare’s time, we have characters from Italy, with the King of Naples, Prospero’s treacherous brother the current Duke of Milan, various noblemen, and, of course, the deposed Duke of Milan, Prospero. Set adrift in a small boat with his infant daughter Miranda by his brother twelve years prior, providence brings them to an island (possibly in the Mediterranean) where he subdues the witch Sycorax and her misshapen son Caliban. Prospero frees Ariel, a sprite with great supernatural powers, and he/she becomes his servant. Luck brings all of Prospero’s enemies (returning from an African wedding) within reach, and a magic storm (created by Prospero) brings them to the island where the play begins.
This production has many fine things going for it and it is well worth seeing. Everything from scenic design to costumes, to lighting, and a few spectacular effects make for a memorable evening. Although the website says this play is for ages 7 and up, realistically, tween and up would be more like it. Adding to the imaginative stagecraft are an excellent troupe of professional actors. 
Prospero is Robert Cuccioli. A fine actor with an estimable career, he imbues his character with wit, pathos, and humor. Ariel is Sarah Gliko. In a fine performance, she grows in stature throughout the play to the point where the spirit reminds Prospero of his own humanity. 
By far, the most thrilling performances of the evening were the trio of drunken conspirators, who stole the show many times and were a complete delight. Never in decades has this comedy sublot bloomed so well. Undoubtedly, director Jason King Jones encouraged the actors who were skilled enough to create such memorable characters. No one in the audience was prepared to laugh out loud and often over the capers, physical comedy, and silliness of the three actors who had the audience in the palms of their hands. Breaking the theatrical Fourth Wall often and with comic effect, Jim Helsinger, Akeem Davis, and Christopher Patrick Mullen involved audience members in their outrageous silliness in the plot. Here we have King Alonso’s (finely portrayed by Eric Hissom) butler and jester Stephano and Trinculo (Jim Helsinger and Akeem Davis in outstanding performances) who have found a cache of fine wine which they share with the monster Caliban (in a tremendously engaging performance by Christopher Patrick Mullen). Caliban convinces them to murder Prospero to gain great wealth and power. 
The coup de theatre surely had to be Ariel’s appearance to the Italian nobles as a winged, flying nemesis recalling the great winged presence in the 20th Century Masterpiece Angels in America. Truly arresting indeed. 
Additionally, seldom have we ever seen an Ariel who so often flew about the stage. Bravo, Sarah Gliko.
Memorable in their roles were the young John Austin as Prince Ferdinand, Billie Wyatt as Miranda, and tall, dark, and handsome David Pica as Sebastian. 
Located in the lovely rolling hills of Center Valley, Pennsylvania, the Labuda Center mainstage is an intimate venue perfect for audiences. Parking is plentiful and free, and food and refreshments are available. With such a fine production of The Tempest, with such outstanding performances, and every other delight previously mentioned, what are you waiting for, dear reader? Hie thee forthwith to see The Tempest.
To secure tickets to The Tempest, or for more information, visit .
Next at the festival will be Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, July 20-August 5, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, July 19-August 6.

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