Los Angeles/Regional Theater Preview: THE TEMPEST (Shakespeare Orange County in Garden Grove)

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by Tony Frankel on July 13, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Shakespeare Orange County (SOC) has used local community members alongside professional actors to reinvent Shakespeare as a way to offer thoughts about inclusiveness and Southern California’s astoundingly diverse population with creative results. This way, the classical English literature combined with cultural aspects actually influences storytelling. And the community pride behind these productions is truly inspiring.

In the past were Romeo & Juliet, which centered around a quinceañera and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which featured Polynesian dance troupe Hitia O Te Ra. Opening this weekend and playing through July 29 is The Tempest, which will use traditional Korean drumming and dancing, choreographed by Miock Ji, who will fill the island with the sounds, magic and beauty of her ancient culture. Internationally noted scenic and lighting designer Dipak Gupta sets the stage for this magical tale in South East Asia.

And given the climate of our age of anxiety, there’s a special message here. When the sorcerer Prospero discards his magic staff and abjures his spellbinding ways, it is, of course, Shakespeare’s swan song too. The Tempest, his final finished work, is a valedictory to the 35 or so splendid stage stories that precede it. If Prospero, perhaps to give his daughter a lesson in magnanimity, can forgive the enemies who supplanted him in Milan and consigned him to a barren island with only the savage Caliban, ethereal Ariel and devoted Miranda as his islemates, we too can forgive all above our worser selves—though it helps to have a magic staff. The Bard’s last enchantment retroactively blesses them all.

“The Tempest can be interpreted in many ways,” says director Peter Uribe. “But what I most want to convey here is the sense of family and the themes of forgiveness and human connection. We need to be reminded of these things, especially now.”

The biggest coup here is that SOC has brought on board three veteran actors of both Hollywood and Broadway. Harry Groener (pictured above), legend in the New York theatre scene (although he may be better known to audiences as The Mayor on Buffy, The Vampire Slayer) plays Prospero; five-time L.A. Drama Critics’ Circle award winner Morlan Higgins (pictures below) plays Caliban; and South Coast Rep favorite Hal Landon, Jr. plays Gonzalo. These are three of my favorite thespians ever, so get tickets to this fantasy island now.

The Tempest
Shakespeare Orange County
Garden Grove Festival Amphitheatre
12762 Main Street in Garden Grove
runs July 14 — 29, 2017
for tickets, visit Shakespeare OC

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