THE TEMPEST Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle The summer solstice has yet to arrive and already director Jonathan Moscone has produced this summer’s classic: THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare. Now, through June 24th, the California Shakespeare Theater at Bruns Theater in Orinda will echo with the thundering gale of Prospero’s conjured storm. Clear articulation and measured pacing bring the Elizabethan English into sharp comprehensible focus. Each year we perilously distance ourselves further from the lingua of the Bard; Shakespearean directors and actors must work harder to bridge the expanding linguistic chasm. Shakespearean scholars rightfully argue that THE TEMPEST is both neoclassical and Shakespeare’s greatest work. Sadly to many scholars, it signals Shakespeare’s intention to retire from theater: as Prospero gives up black magic, so too did Shakespeare, after writing THE TEMPEST, give up the magic of the stage. One of the bay area’s most versatile and gifted actors, James Carpenter, brilliantly executes his craft as Alonso, the repentant King of Naples. That dazzling diva of bay area stages, Catherine Castellanos, embraces two diverse roles: Caliban (part fish, part man, part redolent monster) and Antonio (the evil usurper of Prospero’s Milanese crown). And why burn fossil fuels getting to Ashland when a star of Ashland, Michael Winters, has traveled to the Orinda stage. Michael Winters is magnificent as that vengeful sorcerer and castaway: Prospero, a displaced monarch who doesn’t mad, he gets even, and don’t ever call him Stormy; he hates that. Comic relief is provided by Nicholas Pesczar, in the form of that besotted jester, Trinculo, who does his best to empty a bot of jettisoned port before he drinks his first drop of water. Set designer Emily Greene has created a most imaginative and intelligent set; she has moved the action right to the edge of the audience, where it should be. Rather than being tempted to utilize the retreating back forty, MS Greene keeps the action focused, seemingly within the reach of the audience; no one needs opera glasses, a lorgnette or 3-D glasses to have a sense of intimacy with the show. Choreographer Erika Chong Shuch achieves a remarkable balance: while no one wants to see Prospero’s island turned into a Broadway stage, it must be recognized that Jonathon Moscone’s signature approach to directing is kinesthetic; fluid movement; not trudging on and off stage. While MS Shuch’s choreography does not result in the hoofing you’d see in a musical it wonderfully links movement to the emotional baseline of the play. California Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST is not merely a performance, it is a production, an event, a confluence of art forms, an intersection of great imaginations. Rarely do this many artistic geniuses converge on one stage; THE TEMPEST should not be missed. For tickets call the Cal Shakes box office at 510.548.9666 or visit