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Shakespearean storm at Olympia’s Port

The Tempest in summer

Silva Goetz as Ariel. Photo credit: Mishka Navarre

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Shakespeare's The Tempest, performed in front of the viewing tower at Olympia's Port Plaza, is a beautifully staged outdoor performance of one of the Bard's last and most challenging plays. It opens with the crash of thunder and lightning in a chaotic scene of a storm at sea performed in front of the scenic background of the Port of Olympia. From there, a cadre of Olympia's finest actors perform magic and find love -- and get drunk and obnoxious for an hour and a half in a play significantly and expertly adapted by Director Kate Ayers from the much longer original script, cutting out characters and entire scenes to leave a core of exciting drama.

Twelve years earlier, Prospero (Brian Tyrrell), the former Duke of Milan, was deposed by his brother, Antonio (Michael Christopher), and exiled to a deserted island where he lives with his daughter, Miranda (Kate Anders), a magical creature named Ariel (Silva Goetz) and his hideous enslaved monster, Caliban (Drew Doyle).

It is Prospero's magic, aided by Ariel, that causes the storm, which wrecks Antonio's ship and strands Antonio and his companions on Prospero's island where Prospero conspires to use his magic to restore himself to his rightful Dukedom.

The Tempest has been called a comedy and a romance. It is a highly dramatic play with elements of comedy and tragedy (although minus the usual bloodbath). There is love, there is intrigue, and there is excitement akin to that of a disaster movie or a Star Wars-type adventure.

Tyrell is one of the South Sound's most celebrated actors. He recently retired from 25 years as a teacher and director at Centralia College. He has acted at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and has toured with the National Shakespeare Company in New York.

As Prospero, he is majestic yet fully human. Kate Anders is lovely and exciting to watch as Prospero's daughter Miranda.

Michael Christopher's Antonio and Christian Carvajal's Sebastian are a joy to watch as they conspire together and sword fight with nothing and no one (thanks to Prospero's magic which causes swords to become impossible to lift).

The trio of the hideous monster Caliban (Doyle with a shaved and painted head), the king's jester, Trinculo (Heather Christopher), and the king's drunken butler, Stephano (John Serembe), provide comic relief beyond belief. In one of the funniest scenes ever, Trinculo lies down on top of Caliban and the drunken Stephano stumbles upon them and thinks he's seeing a monster with two heads and four legs.

Goetz's Ariel is a joy to watch. She wears beautiful blue robes and runs all over the Port Plaza with incredible speed, arms spread and gown flowing like wings. She makes you believe in magic.

The setting with the tall viewing tower and the water in the background is ideal for a play about a shipwreck on an island. Seagulls calling throughout the play lend realism to the setting but can be a distraction. You get used to it easily, however. Boats passing by and people strolling Percival Landing can also be a distraction, but that is all part of the charm of outdoor theater.

Audience members are encouraged to bring chairs and or cushions. Extra clothing is also recommended since it tends to cool off considerably when the sun goes down. Food and beverages are allowed on site during the show, but alcoholic beverages are not allowed.

THE TEMPEST, 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, through Aug. 31 (except Aug. 24), Port Plaza, 701 Columbia St. NW, Olympia, free,

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