Burning Coal Theatre Company opened its production of (Three Man) Tempest on Thursday, December 5. Adapted and directed by Randolph Curtis Rand, the production follows the magical plot of Shakespeare's The Tempest but chooses to alter the Epilogue. Instead of keeping Shakespeare's farewell to the stage, the actors repeated the lines spoken earlier at the end of the masque. Mirroring the end of the masque, where spirits perform for Ferdinand and Miranda, Rand ends his adaptation with the actors reminding us that they will fade away into the air like spirits and like humans do, for after all, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on…."
The adaptation features a young Raleigh actor named Carter as Caliban and others, Adam Patterson as Miranda and others, and Randolph Curtis Rand as Prospero and others. Ariel, the spirit who is a servant to Prospero, was played primarily by Adam Patterson and appeared as light taking over other characters to speak through them. The audience learns that where a flashlight points, is where Ariel is – whether that's on a curtain, in another character, or among the elements. All three actors took on multiple characters and denoted their differences vocally, physically, and with the help of dolls, figurines, and a stuffed animal.
The story's comedy is enhanced by the production's spin, but I found that with the doubling and tripling of parts, the one thing I missed were some character arcs. Furthermore, the production seems to laugh at the more sentimental aspects such as love at first sight, the giving away of a daughter, and the forgiveness of wrongdoings.
With an all-around impressive technical side, the story remains true to form with its magical elements. With props designed by Elizabeth Newton, Daniel Winters' lighting design, and Barry Jaked's mechanics as master electrician, distinction between characters and places helped create the magic in the production.
SNOW, a design team based in New York City, created various trap doors that allowed for the travel of the story and helped solve the transitions necessary for the dolls, figurines, and stuffed animal.
Minimal in concept, intricate in design, and vital to the success of this production, the design team allowed the actors to successfully deliver this complicated tale of magic, romance, and forgiveness.
If you are unfamiliar with The Tempest, it would behoove you to brush up on your characters, but overall this trio of actors swiftly and clearly plays all roles (with the help of a trio of ladies who perform the masque and assist in the magic making). Running for this weekend and the two following, (Three Man) Tempest is an impressive and wonderfully quirky production of a most beloved tale. Don't miss out on the magic!
(Three Man) Tempest runs through Sunday, December 22 at the Murphey School Auditorium. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.