Theater review: Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park's 'The Tempest'

“The Tempest” is highly recommended as it plays at the Myriad Gardens in Oklahoma City.
BY JOHN BRANDENBURG For The Oklahoman Published: July 8, 2012

A good blend of magic, raucous humor, grudging mercy and youthful romance triumphant over potential tragedy, was served up in “The Tempest” by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park.

Loud storm sounds, bells, and men with ropes, controlled by a magician with his stave from above, suggested a shipwreck on the castle-like stage, covered with material similar to that of sails or parachutes.

But it was veteran cast members, and Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park newcomer Rebecca Ashton, more than special effects, which made the Bard's late masterpiece come to life Thursday at Myriad Gardens Water Stage, 301 W Reno.

Hal Kohlman brought a powerful presence, heavy-handed but gruffly appealing, to Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, exiled to the island, where he uses magic to strand his enemies' on its shore.

Carrying out his bidding with the right air of merry, mischievous enjoyment of the confusion being caused was a shaven-headed David Mays as Ariel, wearing body paint, see-through pants and a jazzy sash.

Supplying a crudely humorous contrast to Mays as “the dainty spirit of the winds” was Ben Hall as Caliban, a “brutish half man/half beast,” who wants to take back “his” island from Prospero.

Wading out of the dark waters surrounding the stage, like the title character in the movie the “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” Hall seemed to revel in the raunchy role, and soon made it his own.

This was especially true after he encountered Don Taylor as Trinculo, a drunken jester, and Jon Haque as Stephano, a servant who makes Caliban his servant by giving him “moon-liquor.”

Together, these three were a comic force to reckon with, threatening to drown over aspects of the play, like the storm which set it in motion, as they joined in Caliban's wacky plan to whack Prospero.

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