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FSU takes modern twist on 'The Tempest'

The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, tells the story of familial betrayal, first love and redemption that come as a result of being stranded on a deserted island.

Under the direction of Kathleen McKinley, California State Univeristy, Fresno’s theater department set out to perform their rendition of this tale. I had the pleasure of seeing one of Fresno State’s Shakespeare plays a few years ago, so I was hoping for an equally enjoyable experience this time around.

The envious Antonia (Kelsey C. Oliver) enlists the help of Alonso (Miguel A. Gastelum), the King of Naples, to overthrow her brother Prospero (Terry Lewis), a magician and the Duke of Milan.

They set Prospero adrift with his three-year-old daughter Miranda (Kia Vassiliades). The pair wind up stranded on an uncharted island, but manage to survive due to the kindness of Alonso’s counsellor, Gonzalo (Dane Oliver), who secretly provides them with food and water.

During their next twelve years on the island, they encounter many spiritual beings and Caliban (Matthew Rudolf Schiltz), the malformed, monstrous son of Sycorax, a dead witch who had previously been banished to the island.

When Prospero learns of the presence of Antonia, Gonzalo, Alonso, his son Ferdinand (Aaron J. McGee) and a few others of royalty on a nearby boat, the magician causes a frightening storm to wash the vessel ashore onto his island. He divides the travelers into three groups and chaos ensues as each group struggles to survive while assuming their companions are dead.

While the language remained the same as the original, the entire show was given a contemporary twist, making it more understandable and relatable for viewers.

The clothes were well done although fairly simple, reflecting a more modern style than what would accurately reflect the time in which The Tempest was written.

The entire cast did a wonderful job of creating unique and believable characters. Since I was unfamiliar with this story, I was a bit confused at the initial introduction of all the characters. By the second half of the play I’d made sense of the plot and people involved and there were a few stand-out performance.

I expected an impressive performance from Lewis, who is a veteran of local theatre and I was not disappointed. The emotional journey his character experienced was delivered with honesty.

Vassiliades did an excellent job of providing a relatable and endearing young woman who experiences love and friendship with a young man of her own age for the first time. The evolution of Miranda and Ferdinand’s relationship was adorable to witness.

Schiltz’s commitment to his character was remarkable. He used his voice, movements and facial expressions to portray a believably crazy and animalistic inhabitant of the island.

My favorite characters were Stephano (Magnus Chhan) and Trinculo (Dillon Morgan), butlers of the royal company. Chhan and Morgan’s performances were hilarious. The majority of the comedy centered around them. At times their dialogue and gestures were a bit on the inappropriate side, but generally they brought humor and lighthearted enjoyment to the show.

Three female spirits that inhabited the island appeared multiple times to showcase their lovely, lilting voices in accompaniment to eerie music. Their musicality was a pleasant addition that gave the sound effects a more full feel.

The set was comprised of a large, revolving spiral staircase. Although the set never really altered, it remained eye-catching because the lighting changed and the staircase moved to indicate each new place.

The props were well done, albeit few in number. The most interesting props were cap guns belonging to the King of Naples and his royal company. When fired, the shots genuinely startled me, adding an element of surprise to the production.

Fresno State’s rendition of The Tempest was definitely worth seeing and I recommend returning to witness their future productions. The acting was impressive, the spiral staircase was visually captivating and the overall production was done skillfully.

The Tempest will be showing through Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. in the Speech Arts Building. Tickets are $17 general admission, $15 for seniors and $10 for students.

Fresno State’s theater department will next perform Bront

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