The wizard at work

The Tempest

“You taught me language, and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse.”

“You taught me language, and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse.”

The Tempest; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; $15-$20. Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street in Nevada City; (530) 478-1974; Through February 26.

Nevada Theatre

401 Broad St.
Nevada City, CA 95959

(530) 265-6161

Rated 4.0

People love wizards, which is why these wise, mysterious, bearded ancients dressed in robes who quietly shape the future as they practice their obscure but potent art keep popping up in stories we love, even in contemporary pop culture: Merlin, Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi. As with so many things literary, Shakespeare arguably provided a wizard better than anybody’s.

The Tempest belongs to Prospero (John Deaderick), a deposed duke living in splendid isolation on a lush, remote island, while freely admitting that he loves his library more than he loved ruling Milan. As Deaderick points out in his director’s note, “The Tempest happily fails to fit nearly into any specific category.” It opens with a shipwreck during a storm, it includes dark scheming by a usurping younger brother, almost leading to the murder of a king, as well as elements found in a Jacobean revenge play—except that in the end, all is forgiven (if not forgotten).

The Tempest also features a pair of charming young lovers who fall for each other at first sight. And it’s got faerie spirits, drunken servants who provide physical comedy and that strange, moody creature Caliban, half man and half fish (the prototype for Tolkien’s Gollum).

Anyone who tries to sum up these multiple mysterious doings in a neat little paragraph does so at their peril—and also misses the point. Shakespeare wants to you lean back in your seat and intuitively soak up the magic as disaster threatens again and again, yet somehow everything comes out right in the end. Even the shipwrecked sailors come through that shattering experience miraculously unharmed—in fact, their clothes seem to be as new as the day they were first worn. It’s just the first of many strange but wonderful things that happen on Prospero’s island.

Deaderick’s interpretation of this old script is spot-on, and the production also benefits from marvelous costumes by Sharon Olson, deftly performed live music (electric cello and electronics) by Arthur Gould and dappled lighting by Erin Beatie.

The comedy comes from Jed Dixon (the servant Stephano), Danny McCammon (the clown Trinculo) and Jimmy McCammon (Caliban), as they polish off a few bottles of wine while dreaming they could become rulers of the isle. Trish Adair is diaphanous and childlike as the nimble spirit Ariel (wearing a form-fitting, head-to-toe blue costume)—Adair’s children, Maddie and Lucy, are also in the cast as cute little spirits.

Iona Swift (Miranda) and Tucker Braga (Ferdinand) are the eager young lovers, swept off their feet. Eric Tomb (Alonso) plays the sad king who believes he’s lost his son in the shipwreck, looking melancholy as he listens to the prattling Ken Miele (the good-hearted nobleman Gonzalo).

And, of course, Deaderick anchors the show as Prospero—often hovering at the edge of the stage, occasionally intervening in a judicious way, always shaping the outcome.