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“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep”

By Xun Zhang and Vince Mediaa

Celebrate enchantment, toxic families and love; Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST sets sail on the open sea. The storm has pushed the ship on stage at Oakland Theater Project now through March 13th. THE TEMPEST is thought to be the Bard’s last known play. OTP reopened their Fax Arts Studio Oakland stage with their first indoor performance since the shut down and this production is one of the best TEMPEST I have yet to see.

This terrific production was directed by OTP Executive Director and Co- AD, Michael Socrates Moran, who says “in this play we have attempts of rebellion, assassination, liberation, and revenge.” Moran staged this as a frame - THE TEMPEST begins where it ends. He says “in our retelling we begin at the end in a dreamscape where Caliban awaits us to visit him upon an island that can only be found in the theater.”

This Tempest defies classification as it contains both tragic and comic themes, including romance. It opens magic, betrayal, revenge, and hell.

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”

The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. Miranda, played by the passionate Abril Centurion, is sleepwalking while everyone else is in a dream state. Three ghosts are haunting Ariel as she stands still. The timeline is back and forth as various cast members narrate to remind us of where we are an announce the five act breaks. Moran has streamlined the play down to 90 minutes with no act break.

Director Moran and his clever crew created a lively production of the Bards final play he wrote alone and, one that falls into poetry and philosophy at the expense of a plot. With beautiful monologues like Prospero’s meditative lines ”We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” — it’s easy to look inward and at the islands we find ourselves as one of the ghosts and creatures.

The story is simple: there’s a storm. As a result, a ship’s passengers, the royals and their entourage are tossed into the sea. They land on an island controlled by a political exile, Prospero, who studies magic. His teen daughter and native creatures are the only others there with him. All the actors play double characters as the powerful Adrian Roberts plays both Prospero and Caliban at one point in the same scene.

The Bards plays, if performed with every line collected or added during his lifetime and long afterward, could last days. All directors get to re-shape these famous dramas. Moran has chosen to give only a quick nod to feuding families, in favor of emphasizing the play’s supernatural elements. The audience has to try to imagine they are on a magical island. It's abstract but on point. The ocean glistening blue light on the walls, the reflective floor. As sand pours onto a shipwrecked model it's like mime and fills our imagination which is better than seeing the actual reality. It's a circle. It's like we are trapped on the island.

The eight member cast makes Shakespeare's language easy to listen to, like natural speech. Nothing grand or over acted very down to earth. The accomplished players include Adrian Roberts, Abril Centurion, Benoit Monin, Nathaniel Andalis, Kevin Rebultan, and the three creatures and ghosts Sharon Shao, Romeo Channer and Carla Gallardo. Freedom and trapped is another diabolical theme as is reality and a dream state. Who is free and who is lost. Prospero is free, Cariban is trapped. The King is trapped as Miranda is stuck in between, and love sets her free. Pretty Centurion (Miranda) and the dynamic Kevin Rebultan as Ferdinand are charming and passionate as the young lovers. The three ghosts were trapped and in the timeline they tried to be free.

The set design was created by Karla Hargrave and is beautifully realized and presents a reflection of the entire cast. The stage floor is a mirror, and the island ghosts sit on rich pilings from the sinking ship. Stephanie Anne Johnson’s lighting design added story-telling texture with the blinding fluorescent fill light that brought the sea storm to life and added that magical flair to the setting. No need for a fog machine under Johnson’s mystic moods.

Elton Bradman’s sound design and musical compositions enhanced the overall effect. Regina Evans' rich costumes bring a cacophony of colors, styles and textures set a meaningful visual tone. Dave Maier, one the Bay's best fight choreographers, brings the action right into the seating of the 40 audience members, his action is always breathtaking. Stage Manager Mylo Cardona had the difficult task of working with the eight cast members who remained on stage the whole 90 minutes.

Many of the characters fall asleep, pause in time, reality, dream, hallucination, and make the audience really forget about reality. It's a different dimension. Let's lose ourselves and come to this magical universe. It's an artistic way of escapism. Welcome back Oakland Theater Project this is the perfect Bard to see as we welcome back live theater to the Bay Area.

The Oakland Theater Project Presents


by William Shakespear '

Directed by Michael Socrates Moran,

Must Close March 13th 2022

Staged at Flax Art Studio.

1501 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA 94612.

Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission

Photos by David Flores II



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