Great Lake Theater’s ‘The Tempest’ is the balm after the storm




Four hundred and eight years ago Shakespeare’s final work “The Tempest” was performed at the court of King James and his wife Anne of Denmark in celebration of the marriage contract between their daughter Elizabeth and Frederick the future King of Bohemia.

Shakespeare knew how to play to a royal audience as the drama was chock full of “music, dance, poetry, elaborate costuming, masques (a form of back lit puppetry) and inventive stage sets as well as wondrous mythological creatures.” By all accounts it was well received by the King and Queen and their Court. It was soon after that Shakespeare retired to Stratford On Avon until his death in 1616.

Great Lakes Theater is also known for playing to their audience and after a 22 month hiatus they have returned to the stage stronger than ever. One could tell right from the show’s opening that the actors were absolutely thrilled to be back doing what they love... entertaining people.

Queen Alonso (Jessika D. Williams) of Naples is traveling with her fleet by ship with Antonio (David Anthony Smith) the usurping Duke of Milan, Gonzalo (Lisa Tejero) the Queen’s honest counselor, the Queen’s brother Sebastian (Julian Remulla), the Queen’s son Ferdinand (Domonique Champion), the Queen’s jester Trinculo (Jodi Dominick), the Queen’s drunken butler Stephano (Jillian Kates) and Adrian (Jaime Nebeker) an attending lord to the Queen. The ship housing the Queen and her entourage gets separated from the fleet during a raging tempest.

Unbeknownst to the sea tossed victims this tempest is not a natural phenomena but instead is being caused by Ariel (Joe Wegner) a spirit of the island. Ariel is under the command of Prospero (Aled Davies) the rightful Duke of Milan who having been set adrift with his daughter Miranda (Angela Utrera) twelve years ago and having landed on this very island now seeks revenge on those who wronged him.

The first order of business is to separate the party. Prospero allows a meeting between Caliban (Nick Steen), a monstrous creature who was living on the island prior to Propero’s arrival and with whom he adopted, raised and enslaved, and Trinculo and Stephano who has procured and hidden the ship’s entire stock of wine. Caliban convinces the two drunken half wits to join him in a half baked coup against Prospero.

Queen Alonso’s son Ferdinand is also separated so that he can discover and fall in love with Miranda. This leaves the Queen and her companions to wander the island as Ariel befalls all sorts of mischief upon them as the Queen’s more devious companions plot to murder her and take over the throne.

This Great Lakes Theater production is an absolutely superior offering. Throughout the show are sprinkled small modern touches of song and dance as well as brilliant asides to the audience. In short it is a delight to the eyes and ears. The opening sequence of Ferdinand battling the sea is so realistic you will swear that you can taste the sea’s salty spray. The costuming by Helen Q. Huang is brilliant in its concept and execution with a Salvador Dali flair. The set design by Efrin Delgadillo is rustic and well suited for the prevailing action. The show is smartly directed by Sara Bruner. There is even a back light puppet show (known as a masque) performed by Iris, Greek Goddess of Sea and Sky (Jessika D. Williams), Ceres, Roman Goddess of Agriculture (Lisa Tejero) and Juno, Roman Daughter of Marriage (Jaime Nebeker).

While everyone on stage did an outstanding job, stand outs in the production are of course Aled Davies as Prospero who received strong applause on his stage entrance. Joe Wegner as Ariel who literally steals the show with all of his comic antics. Between his body language and facial expressions he is the much appreciated comic relief. Jodi Dominick as Trinculo and Jillian Kates as Stephano combine their wild costuming with outrageously “drunken” behavior that is a wonderful treat for the audience. Lastly, Jessika D. Williams anchors the cast with her Queenly manner.

Although all of the lines of the play are in Middle English there is no difficulty in understanding what is happening on stage as the combination of spoken word and physical effectuation makes it easy to follow the action. This is a delightful production that dazzles the senses and tickles the funny bone. Come see Shakespeare as it was first designed to be viewed.


Part of the show's special effects include fog and strobe lights that may be bothersome to those who are sensory sensitive.

The Great Lakes Theater production of “The Tempest” will be on stage in the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square, 2067 E. 14th Street, Cleveland, Ohio through November 7, 2021. For more information or to purchase tickets go to https://www.greatlakestheater.org/ or call (216) 241-6000.

All audience members will be checked at the door for proof of Covid vaccine or proof of negative testing within 72 hours of arrival. You will also be asked for identification. Masks are required for everyone during their entire stay at the theater.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.