Tracy's Turbulent Take on The Tempest at Marin Shakespeare

Robert Parsons as Prospero and Sarah Gold as Miranda, Prospero's daughter in The Tempest

With their final production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Marin Shakespeare Company welcomes Director Jon Tracy, who brings his own brand of magic to this enchanting romance.  Recalling the turn of the 19th century in 1901 and touching on the current "steampunk" movement, Tracy is twisting The Tempest taking inspiration from inventor Nikola Tesla in this production which takes a look at what magic is to the modern audience.  Jon Tracy is a creative and innovative director who is true to his vision throughout the entire production.  

The play opens with blue walls which are turned around into a scientific laboratory amid wonderful special effects of both lighting and sound.  This laboratory belongs to the deposed and exiled Duke Prospero (Robert Parsons) who is a brilliant scientist.  Caliban (Michael Torres) is an indigenous scientist who works for Prospero.  Ariel has become the Ariel coil, Prospero's great invention.  The Coil controls the Qualities, six robotic figures who speak Ariel's lines in unison and do amazing backwards somersaults and disappear through trap doors.  Miranda, Prospero's daughter (Sarah Gold) is in a rage against her father because of a shipwreck which Prospero caused.  After the shipwreck, Ferdinand (Alex Hersler) appears on the scene and meets Miranda and the two are immediately drawn to one another.  

Wonderful comic relief is provided before the end of Act I by Trincula (Lynne Soffer) as a simple minded servant who is looking for a place to wait out the coming storm.  Stephano (Cassidy Brown), a drunken butler enters and the two friends are overjoyed to have found each other.  At the end of Act I the whole audience was cheering.  

However, things seem to fall apart in Act II. Prospero's enemies are in his power. They are Alonso, King of Naples (Robert Currier), Gonzalo, Elder of Milan (Christopher Hammond), Sebastian, Alonso's younger brother (Scott Coopwood), and Antonio, Prospero's younger brother (James Hizer).  Prospero forgives his enemies and the play concludes with the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand who is Alonso's son.  Prospero's epilogue is completely eliminated.  

The real magic of this production lies in Abra Berman's wonderful Victorian costumes, Ellen Brooks' amazing lighting design and Nina Ball's innovative set design.  Jon Tracy takes many liberties with Shakespeare's script--some which work but some fall flat, but the production is recommended for its uniqueness and inventiveness.

The Tempest plays in repertory with Macbeth and The Complete History of America (abridged) through September 25, 2011. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 1475 Grand Avenue, Dominican University, San Rafael, California. For tickets, call the box office at 415-499-4488 or go online at

Flora Lynn Isaacson