Hart House Theatre’s second theatre production, The Tempest, drew a crowd that filled a little less than half the theatre for its third night, and with good reason.
That was reason was that even after two days of shows, some of the actors still stumbled over their lines and couldn’t quite nail the English accent (or didn’t bother to use one at all, even though it made them stand out in a bad way). Suffice it to say that there were three people in front of me who didn’t even return after the intermission.
We’ll start with the good—which, to be fair, there was quite a lot of. Long-time Hart House Jeremy Hutton did an amazing job of bringing his vision to life on the stage. The set was beautifully done and the music and lighting properly portrayed the magical elements of the play—strobe lights flashed while the spirits danced, for example, and the frequent pauses in the scenes while another character narrated were nicely plotted out and executed.
Easily one of the best things about this production was Ariel (Amaka Umeh). Umeh absolutely became her character and completely won me over with her beautiful singing, dancing, and convincing acting. She was as mystical as she was elegant and a breath of fresh air among the more stale scenes of the play.
The rest of the spirits were just as incredible to watch—all were painted completely white and spent much of the play remaining absolutely still, which was not only impressive but also surprisingly mesmerizing. Their grace and beautiful wardrobe reminded me of the Roman statues you find in history museums. To watch them come to life was a spectacle.
Prospero (Peter Higginson) was also among some of the better actors. Being a veteran to the stage and having played Prospero before, he added life to some of the scenes that would have definitely fallen short without him. To watch such a seasoned actor return to the stage as a character he’d already played once made his performance all the more impressive.
The comic relief offered by Stephano (Paolo Santalucia) and Trinculo (Cameron Laurie) was wonderful and both did a great job of keeping the audience entertained with their drunken antics without trying too hard to sell the audience on their characters.
Caliban (William Foley) also put together a good character. He was very animated—at times, though, a little too animated, which was slightly off-putting to watch.
Miranda (Katherine Fogler) and Ferdinand (Andrei Preda) were where The Tempest fell short. Fogler’s delivery was awkward and unconvincing; she stumbled over her lines at times, and alongside the more experienced actors like Higginson, missteps like that really stood out. Worse, her English accent was barely detectable.
Preda’s performance was just as unsatisfying, remaining monotonous through just about every one of his lines. The scenes where Ferdinand was supposed to show some sort of emotion sounded like nothing but sarcasm on his part, and the sad thing is I’m pretty sure it was unintentional.
Despite all the good of the experienced actors, wonderful set design, music, and lighting, within the first few scenes of the play I could see people growing restless and slumping down in their seats. To be honest, I found myself doing the same. I’m not sure if I would recommend this play to a friend, because although part of me wants to overpay for a ticket just to see the good parts again, the bad parts made the other part of me want to leave before intermission.