Friday, July 22, 2011

The Tempest is a perfect for outdoor theatre

by Andrew Juhl

Cedar Rapids - My culturally ignorant self was not aware of Brucemore. I had no idea there was a well-designed outdoor stage in Cedar Rapids that put on Shakespeare and other classics every summer, shows to which you can bring your camp chairs, blankets, and favorite bottle(s) of wine to. I’ve been in the area for over 10 years, and now I feel cheated that this is the first I’m hearing of it.

Because it’s an amazing experience.

Artistic Director Leslie Charipar’s staging of Shakespeare’s The Tempest was a purely delightful outdoor theatre experience. The all-around wonderful cast exhibited an obvious dedication to—and enjoyment of—the material, and they were engaging throughout the evening. It is always wonderful to see Shakespeare put on by performers who are there purely because they want to be, who have memorized the lines out of the desire to understand, who simply wish to share these plays with the world. Of special note are: Scott Humeston, who turns in a wonderfully competent understanding of Prospero; Matthew James and Bryant Duffy, who in tandem bring dozens of laugh out loud moments to the evening as fops Adrian and Francisco; Jim Kropa, who portrays perhaps the best Caliban I’ve ever seen in person; and Alex Williams, as a wonderfully drunky-drunk Trinculo.

I was also sincerely impressed with the sound and lighting quality of this environment, neither of which are terribly easy things to pull-off in outdoor theatre. So, too, was I pleased with the incredibly simple yet effective stage dressing: simple candle lights in glass orbs hung downstage. During the final scenes of the evening, these lights serve to highlight Prospero’s magical abilities, as well as usher the play (and its characters) into the twilight. But perhaps more impressive is the way the selection of this play, in particular, fits so well with its outdoor staging. Last night’s performances were joined by a chorus of croaking frogs, battalions of chirping crickets, and fireflies galore. These, along with the winds and mounting storm clouds added significantly to The Tempest’s magical, nature setting.

If this staging of The Tempest is any indication of the regular fare to be expected at Brucemore, I will surely be going there much more often than never in the future.

The Tempest finishes its run tonight and Saturday. Advance tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for Brucemore members and students. All tickets at the gate are $20. Tickets may be purchased at the Brucemore Store or by calling (319) 362-7375. Audiences for The Classics at Brucemore are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets, picnics, and beverages for pre-show revelry. Parking is available on the grounds.

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