SHAKESPEARE THEATRE OF NEW JERSEY
The Daily Record
Director Joe Discher and his cast have created some memorable characters sure to stay in the mind of those who experience them.
Along the way, two more marooned maroons, the drunken Stephano (Jay Leibowitz) and the fool Trinculo (Andy Paterson), provide comic relief, teaming with Caliban to mount a wobbly coup. But Stephano's dream of being king are foiled by magic spells and a bad hangover.
Leibowitz and Paterson are a delightful pair. Leibowitz alternates between loud, wine-soaked oratory and sly double takes, while Paterson takes the slapstick route, stealing food from the audience and riding the brawny Mineart in the evening's comedic highlight.
Mineart gives the most memorable performance, with his bulk, dark eyes and leather-strapped costume creating a truly intimidating presence, and he summons a growl you'll wonder how he produced without a subwoofer. Yet he nails the comedy as well.
After extending the outdoor run, this edition has been booked through Aug. 2, so take advantage and put some magic into your summer.
New Jersey Newsroom
The cast is magnificent, led by A. Bernard Cummings, as Prospero, who brings a sense of physical as well as intellectual control of the role. Certainly the necessary expository speeches have never seemed so clear. He is given wonderful support, first by Joel de la Fuente, who plays Ariel without ever relying on the supercilious or the silly.
The young lovers are nicely played by Rachel Mewbron, as Miranda, and Michael Ellison, as Ferdinand. John Seidman is an excellent Gonzalo, without the fake pathos often accompanying the role, and Bill Christ is a splendid Alonso.
But the real excitement comes with the performances of Jay Leibowitz as Stephano, the drunken butler and his sidekick, Andy Paterson, as the court jester. Now add Mark Mineart as Caliban, the savage son of the evil Sycorax, who once ruled the isle, and you have the trio that steals both our laughs and, indeed, our hearts.
The Tempest offers a torrent of laughs. Discher's 13 talented performers bound onto the stage pulling trunks, singing a sea chantey, and offering a definite "Let's put on a show!" attitude. Once everything's in place, then comes a superbly staged shipwreck.
Far less cherished by Prospero is his slave Caliban. Mark Mineart may be NBA-sized, but he has a terrific command of his body, as is proved by the couple of surprisingly humorous cartwheels he does across the outdoor stage. Discher does allow him, though, to get some well-earned audience sympathy, too.
Alas, Shakespeare didn't allow much room for farce in the scenes where Prospero's enemies arrive. Discher must play these straight, and here's where the kids in the audience wondered what happened to the laughs. But not much time passes before the hilarity returns. This two-hour version of The Tempest sparkles like the jewels that are sprinkled all over Prospero's magic wand.