This Tempest Stirs Up a Storm

Provincetown Banner | August 10, 2006 | By Susan Rand Brown

The white Payomet performance tent sits perched on one end of the abandoned North Truro Air Force Base.  Take the short stroll past the outermost stone bunker, and fields of beach grass hug the dune down to the Atlantic.  The depth of Shakespeare’s emotion lends itself to timeless places like this, where the human hubbub gives way to the natural world: think Hamlet pondering the skull of Yorick, the three witches of Macbeth cackling on the heath, King Lear wandering over the white cliffs ofDover.

The Tempest, in performance at the Payoment Performing Arts Center is Shakespeare’s final play, in which the aging Prospero marries off his virgin daughter, Miranda, to a noble, settles old feuds with his brother, frees the half-human Caliban and in a final act of closure releases the spirit, Arial, chief agent of his magical power.

Done on a bare stage with a small stool and a few versatile props, this spirited two-person adaptation by the Knighthorse Theatre Company is perhaps surprisingly conservative, digging into the essence of the text without forcing a contemporary or stylish interpretation.  The adaptation is faithful to the original language yet makes Shakespeare’s often difficult syntax seems conversational and even airy, and follows the plot outline with unobtrusive cutting and rearranging.  This minimalistic approach is perfectly in sync with the ruggedOuterCapesetting, intensifying the juice of Shakespeare’s text.

Expect to be wowed by a maximum outpouring of energy, though.  Over an hour and a half, the muscular gymnast Tyrus Lemerande and the more lyrical, balletic Amy McLaughlin Lemerande shift shapes and moods with barely a break, sustained by youth, energy and the ability to balance the waves of Shakespeare’s full throttle physical comedy with the play’s more romantic, reflective moments.  This is three-dimensional Shakespeare, choreographed with the speed button set to high.

Both Ty and Amy are skilled in playing to children (Knighthorse specializes in bringing Shakespeare to schools) and while you don’t have to be a child to become fully engrossed, children get the lion’s share of Ty and Amy’s attention.  The couple has rearranged the Payomet’s customary seating arrangement so that chairs surround the stage on three sides; the closeness lets them sidle up to the kids, sitting, kneeling, cajoling and doing whatever it takes to engage them in what is likely a first experience with live theatre.

At one point, Ty Lemerande, taking a split-second break from one of the several scenes involving copious amounts of alcohol passed back and forth between Trinculo the clown, the fool Stephano and the hapless Caliban, rushed to a child in the front row, requested a sip from her water bottle, then proceeded to douse them both, eliciting surprised laughter.  Only later was it apparent that the overheated Lemerande really needed that hosing down.

Theirs is a bravura performance, a tour de force of ensemble acting, free from the affected speech or mannerisms that can accompany Shakespearean performance.  When Amy Lemerande, as Arial, says, “Our revels now are ended…,” words that release both Shakespeare’s characters and the audience from the spell cast by the communal experience of theater, we are sorry to vanish into the dark Truro night.