Port Tobacco Players present The Tempest

The Lovers: Miranda (Allison Claggett) and Ferdinand (Taylor Scott Hines) PHOTO BY KATIE BOLT

La Plata, MD – Port Tobacco Players, Inc. presents William Shakespeare’s final masterpiece, the romantic comedy, The Tempest, through May 21 at the Port Tobacco Playhouse located at 508 E. Charles Street in La Plata, MD. Performance times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. You may call the Box Office at (301)932-6819, or you may purchase tickets from the www.ptplayers.org.

Directed by Rachel Wallace and produced by the team of Debbie Gilley and Keith Linville, this is the tale of the powerful magician and exiled true Duchess of Milan, Prospero, who conjures up a storm (the “tempest”) to shipwreck the vessel carrying her betrayers (brother Antonio who seeks Prospero’s throne, and King Alonso of Naples and his party of nobles) onto the remote enchanted island where she and her daughter, Miranda, have been stranded for the past twelve years. The island’s only other inhabitants are the magical woodland spirit Ariel, the deformed monster, Caliban, and the Spirits Ceres, Iris, Juno and Hebe; Prospero enlists Caliban and Ariel to carry out her vengeance and, ultimately, to reclaim her rightful title and escape from the island. As a master of illusion and manipulation, Prospero plans to restore her daughter to her own rightful place; thus, the marriage of Miranda to Alonso’s son Ferdinand.

Director Wallace credits her mentor, the late Jim Kleyle, who was originally scheduled to direct this show, for placing his trust in her as she carried the torch to bring this project to fruition (along with the entire production staff) to honor his memory.  Each cast member displays a natural, unaffected style of speaking with clarion voices; special effects are truly mesmerizing, thanks to Keith Linville, a wizard in his own right. Throughout the play, she carefully places her actors, expertly “dressing” the stage. She has also created a little chart which labels all of the characters and their relationships to each other. She keeps the actors to a brisk pace throughout; the entire two-act production –including Intermission – runs a scant two-hours in length. The action of the play itself transpires over a period of only about 3 hours. The time is measured in “glasses”—no, not wineglasses, but hourglasses.

The play opens with incantations, and thunder and lightning effects so convincing that it actually appears to be raining onstage. The single monochrome set depicts Prospero’s Tower (stage left) and Caliban’s cave (stage right). Perhaps taking a bit of a nod from the 2010 Julie Taymor film version of The Tempest which changed “Prospero” to “Prospera” and starred Helen Mirren, Director Wallace has, in a brilliant stroke of casting, selected Kristen Page-Kirby for the role of Prospero. Ms. Kirby is a PTP veteran and has been seen as Mrs. Walker in Tommy, and as Elsa in The Sound of Music; she has twice been nominated for WATCH awards. She is a commanding presence onstage.

Possessing equally commanding stage presences are Anthony Dieguez as the monster, Caliban and Kaitelyn Bauer Dieguez as the delicate, birdlike, woodland nymph, Ariel.

During the storm, Prospero and her daughter, Miranda, have observed the shipwreck from the safety of the island. Prospero knows that her brother, Alonso, has eyes on her Duchessdom. Prospero and Miranda were aided with supplies from a friend (Gonzala) when they themselves had initially been exiled and put out to sea; they have been able to survive with the ample provisions of food and water, along with Miranda’s doll ( she was only 3 years old when exiled), and  – especially – the books. Ariel is carried in by the four Spirits and tells Prospero that she has dispersed the King and his nobles safely throughout the island; she once again demands her freedom. Ariel is able to be seen only by Prospero who saved her from having been imprisoned in a tree by the now deceased witch, Sycorax. Ariel obeys Prospero completely. Caliban is then summoned from his cave.  He is an island native, the deformed son of Sycorax. Sycorax had been banished to this island which she ruled, having enslaved all the Spirits before Prospero arrived. Caliban is now Prospero’s slave – and hates her. Miranda has taught him language; Prospero accuses Caliban of lusting after Miranda.

Ariel and the Spirits lead Ferdinand (Taylor Scott Hines) onstage to Ariel’s lovely soprano singing. Encouraged by Prospero, Miranda (Allison Claggett) instantly falls in love with the Prince. As her reward, Prospero promises to free Ariel within two days for having brought Ferdinand to Miranda. The lovers exuberantly communicate their youthfulness and innocence. Taylor was seen recently as Link Larkin in PTP’s Hairspray; Miranda marks Allison’s second appear on the PTP stage.

Next we meet King Alonso (Greg Rumpf) and his entourage of Lords and Ladies (Gonzala, Francesca, Antonio and Sebastian); they are mourning Ferdinand whom they presume has been lost at sea. Ariel overhears Sebastian (Alonso’s scheming brother, played by Connor Bullis) and Antonio (Prospero’s brother who claimed the position of Duke of Milan, played by Dav Timmermann) hatch a plot to kill King Alonso; she protects the King.

Once again, Wallace has scored a triumph in casting the male roles of Francisco and Gonzalo with female actresses, re-naming them Francesca (Heather Wetherald) and Gonzala (Tessa Silvestro). Minor characters have also been omitted and their lines have been distributed to other cast members, resulting in a streamlined script. The Lords and Ladies are gorgeously costumed, as befitting their status. (They had all been returning from the wedding of Claribel in Tunis when they became shipwrecked.) The talented royal quintet of actors and actresses exhibits enviable vocal projection (Connor is seen here in his second PTP show; he is currently a sophomore at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Mr. Timmermann has appeared in dozens of PTP shows. Miss Silvestro holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatrical Design and Production from Towson University and has been seen as The Ghost of Christmas Present in PTP’s A Christmas Carol and as The Acid Queen in Tommy. She teaches theatre at St. Mary’s Ryken and is a Masters in Directing student at Roosevelt University Chicago College of Performing Arts. Heather Wetherald is excited to be a returning PTP veteran.  

The Tempest is presented with grants from the Charles County Arts Alliance, the Maryland State Arts Council, Art Works, and the National Endowment for the Arts. It would not have been possible without original music composed and directed by Zachary Ball (an engineering intern for NAVAIR), with contributions from Beth Ullman (pianist and “all around helper-outer”); produced by Angelina O’Leary; additional music by Kevin MacLeod; Hannah Gilley (a CSM student), assistant to the director; Debbie Gilley, producer in this her first PTP producing attempt; Joselle Gilpin, stage-manager; Christopher Smith, assistant stage manager; Chris Magee, set designer, master carpenter and scenic painting lead, assisted by John Merritt, Jeff Merritt, Doug Wolenhaus, Nick Wolenhaus, Tom Donahue, Rich Gilpin, Kehle Hatch, Allison Claggett, Nancy Belle, Karen Barr Kleyle, Dallas Magee, Taylor Scott Hines, Tessa N. Silvestro, Karen Kleyle and Rachel Wallace, set decorators, assisted by Alicia Zabron and Mary DeMarco-Logue; set painters and design assistants Allison Claggett, Nancy Belle, and Dallas Magee; Ted DeMarco-Logue, lighting designer; Joselle Gilpin, light board operator; April Weimer and Allison Claggett, light crew; Kyle Rappe, sound designer; Anne Lockhart, sound board operator; Brooke L. Howells, choreographer; Karen Kleyle, properties designer; Greg Rumpf, Mary DeMarco-Logue, Hannah Gilley and Nancy Belle, props crew; Lisa Magee, costume designer; Linda Bronsdon, Cathy Compton, Tina Monk and Carol Russell, Wardrobe; Sheila Hyman, hair and makeup designer assisted by Shemika Demouchet Berry, Quentin Nash Sagers, Nancy Belle and Christopher Smith; Sheila Hyman, Mary DeMarco-Logue, Nancy Belle, and Karen Kleyle, goddesses’ masks and collars designers; Sheila Hyman, dogs’ heads designer; Mary DeMarco-Logue, designer of Miranda’s doll; Keith Linville, special effects; Crystal Reed, house manager; David Standish, program/logo design; and Katie Bolt, press photographer.

Sister Act with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, will run at PTP from July 7 to 30 and is based on the Touchstone Pictures Motion Picture of the same name.