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The Tempest

a Classic Collection
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 4046

SHOWING : June 08, 2011 - July 23, 2011



Exiled by her own brother to a remote island and left to die, Prospera - the once loved Duchess of Milan and now an all-powerful sorcereress - conjures a great tempest to wash ashore a ship of her enemies. With the power of magic, Prospera manipulates the survivors of the wreckage to weave a story of revenge, retribution, and reconciliation that is Shakespeare's final play and beloved romance. Nationally acclaimed director Sharon Ott makes her Georgia Shakespeare debut, with Associate Artists Carolyn Cook as Prospera and Chris Kayser as the fairy Ariel.

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Temp, Temper, Tempest
by playgoer
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Georgia Shakespeare's "The Tempest" sports a set by Tyler Tunney that consists of sea grass structures center, left, and right. They give the impression of a bleak island, which is exactly where the action takes place. The central structure allows room above for a platform, from which Prospera casts her spells. That is where we first see her, as a storm rages at sea, incapaciting the ship carrying her usurping brother and his cohorts, stranding them on the island she controls. It's a wonderful bit of stagecraft, Prospera wielding her sceptre-like staff above in a bright light while a blue strip of fabric waves below in shadows, sailors spelling one another at the ship's wheel as they stagger left and right, tossed by the storm.

The first half of the production acts as exposition, with Propera explaining to her daughter, Miranda, how she came to the island and inherited magical powers from the witch who had lived there and whose son she now enslaves. One by one, groups of the stranded visitors are introduced. The magical spirits controlled by Prospera, led by Ariel, add mayhem to the proceedings. I was delighted with a scene in which the spirits created a food-laden table with a stretched tablecloth in mid-air, tilted it, and whisked it away in front of an amazed group of hungry and parched men.

While the first half acts as an introduction to all the characters, the second half acts pretty much as denouement. There are a lot of people to square away in the sliver of a plot. The romance of Miranda and Ferdinand adds some interest, as does the promised freedom of Ariel. The action keeps going on non-stop, and Shakespeare's language is as rich as in any of his plays, so boredom never sets in.

Performances are all good, with Carolyn Cook (Prospera) and Chris Kayser (Ariel) true standouts. Neal A. Ghant (Caliban) does a wonderful job with the physicality of his role as a grotesque slave, and Mark Cabus makes Trinculo an amazingly humorous fellow. Tess Malis Kincaid has the walk-on cameo role of Ceres (much as Carolyn Cook has a tiny role in "Antony and Cleopatra") and sings beautifully. Costumes and lighting all add to the delight of the production.

"The Tempest" demonstrates what Georgia Shakespeare does best. It takes Shakespeare's play and enhances it with top-notch production values, professional acting, and energetic direction (this time by Sharon Ott). This one's a winner. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Wandering in Wonder and Illusion
by Dedalus
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. “The Tempest” is one of my all-time favorites from Shakespeare’s “play list,” and I’ve seen nearly a dozen different productions and film adaptations (and I anxiously await the DVD release of Julie Taymor’s 2010 version, which breezed through area theatres so fast that none of us could actually see it). I’ve always enjoyed the play’s combination of fantasy and Jacobean vengeance, its mixture of primal innocence (Miranda) and calculated evil (Antonio and Sebastian), its over-the-top theatricality and understated subtexts and emotional connections. But what really sells this piece for me is its resolution, its choice of forgiveness over revenge, its assurance that mistakes can be acknowledged and forgiven, and its humanist celebration of the mundane over the phantasmagoric.

For the second time, Georgia Shakespeare has cast a woman in the central role of Prospero (or, I should say, Prospera), this time the luminous and magical Carolyn Cook. This time, the mother/daughter dynamic of the 2003 production has been down-played in favor of making Ms. Cook’s Prospera a dynamic force of nature, a cyclone of anger and vengeance that cracks only slowly into the ultimate expressions of forgiveness and love. Prospera dominates this production like no other, mounted high over the stage for the opening tempest, overseeing and controlling all that happens in her reduced domain. She is so much the driving energy of this production that all the other characters, all the other actors have faded into a leeward shelter of my memory.

To recap the story, Prospera was the Duchess of Milan. After she withdraws into an intense study of magic and arcane lore, she is overthrown in a coup engineered by her brother Antonio and by Alonso, the King of Milan. Exiled to a deserted island with her young daughter Miranda, she engineers a tempest that sweeps all her enemies into her control. Witnessing the burgeoning love between her daughter Miranda and the shipwrecked son of Alonso, she begins to soften her harsh notions of revenge, and the play ends with a glorious paean to forgiveness and reconciliation.

One of the aspects of this play that seems to be as malleable and elusive as mercury is the character of Ariel, the “aery spirit” who is Prospero/a’s aide. Some productions have treated Arial as a bitter slave, others as the true force of magic behind Prospero/a’s power, still others as a fawning childlike daughter-figure (in my review of the 2003 staging, I cited her plaintive “Do you love me?” query to Prospera as a “perfect moment” that made clear their relationship). Here, Chris Kayser treats Ariel as a true partner, a gleeful participant in Prospera’s machinations, a true friend (they even share a sort of “secret handshake” that tells us as much about the long-time professional partnering of Ms. Cook and Mr. Kayser as it does about the teaming of Ariel and Prospera). The point is that the character is so cleverly written that all these approaches work, provided they are treated consistently within a particular production.

This time, if the shipwrecked conspirators rarely stand out as equal “combatants,” the comic sub-plot featuring the bestial Caliban and the drunken servants does. Mark Cabus and Bruce Evers bring to Trinculo and Stephano a blithe indifference to all the “magical” happenings that boosts the comic underscoring of their scenes. And Neal Ghant’s Caliban is a puffed-up would-be avenger who is far too easily distracted by rum and frolicking. I loved all their antics and their half-baked “plot.”

Physically, this production boasts a marvelous set by Tyler Tunney that is dominated by Prospera’s thatch-hut “cell,” a primitive-looking structure that focuses all the storylines, provides a marvelous platform for Prospera’s opening spell, and keeps a pastoral atmosphere flowing over all the proceedings.

But, this is Carolyn Cook’s play, pure and simple. She is one of the finest Prospero/as I’ve seen and she haunts the production even when not on stage. If her sense of motherly affection is cold and distant, well, that works within the context of this production. It is her raging anger that propels the plot, that needs to be tamed for the play to work. And Ms. Cook handles the transition like a master. This is a Prospera to treasure, one that sets the bar high for anyone (of either gender) who follows in her footsteps.

In the final analysis, every production of “The Tempest” is a “brave new world” of shifting focus and theatrical wonder. This production in particular gave me ample opportunity to “wander in illusion,’ in the theatrical bells and whistles that make up a truly satisfying evening of Shakespeare. It is, without a doubt, such stuff as dreams are made on.

-- Brad Rudy (



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