The third season of the New World Theatre Project in Cupids was inaugurated Saturday past with the opening of “The Tempest,” the rain politely holding off for the duration of the performance on the scaled-down model of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
The unique selling point of this production is its appropriation of Amerindian culture in tribute to the lost Beothucks in the dress, language, drumming and dancing performed by Cathy Elliott in the role of Ariel — conceived of as a Beothuck spirit in red buckskin — and by the intense, extra-textual presence of Stan Nochasak as a second Beothuck spirit.
Eleven actors playing 15 roles are led by Greg Malone as a gaunt, gestural, authoritarian Prospero, who finally learns forgiveness.
Gabriella Colavecchio is a fresh and charming Miranda that handsome Prince Ferdinand (Jake Bradbury) would be mad not to fall in love with.
Elliott’s pipe-sucking Ariel (but with no sign of smoke and with an anachronistically modern pipe) is very down to earth and grounded. No ethereal nymph here.
Dog-collared, mud-encrusted, comically brutish and resentful Caliban (Brian Marler) is dragged on a leash from under the stage floor. No wonder he has an attitude.
The shipwrecked newcomers to the island are Prospero’s political rivals when he was Duke of Milan — Courtney Brown in the role of Queen Alonsa (Alonso, King of Naples in Shakespeare’s original), the two intensely malevolent courtly conspirators and would-be assassins (Paul Rowe’s cynical Sebastian and Jerry Etienne’s equally cynical Antonio).
The honest, if long-winded and utopia-minded Milanese courtier, Gonzalo, is played by Neil Butler.
Comic mirroring of murderous ambition is provided by downstairs characters in the form of court jester Trincula (shaven-headed Courtney Brown) and bottle-toting court butler, Stephano (Butler in his second role).
The whole shebang collectively concludes with an all-cast triumphal rendition of “Where the Bee Sucks.” Be careful where you sit lest you get pulled in.
Peggy Hogan’s costume design is colourful and well considered, with two exceptions.
In a Renaissance-costumed production, replete with doublet and hose, who on earth provided Prospero with an incongruous trilby hat (with a feather in it, forsooth) to wear for the finale; and who cruelly costumed Brown in a heavily boned, bustled, beribboned, ruffed and puff-sleeved white dress that made the handsome and statuesque actress look like a wedding cake?
The inventive, energetic and spirited production, with a strong cast, takes not a few liberties with the text. But what is Shakespeare if not the play-dough of theatre?
Directed by Jeannette Lambermont-Morey, “The Tempest” plays Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of the month and continues in repertoire with Moliere’s “Tartuffe” on various dates in August, closing the 26th of that month.
Starting at 6 p.m. — although there are some 1 p.m. openings in the second month — the play finishes around 8:20, including a 15-minute intermission.