Review of Tempestuous
By Merlyn Q. Sell
Directed by Beulah Vega
For tickets / schedule :
Pegasus Theater Company
Riverkeeper Stewardship Park, Guerneville
RUN: June 9 – 25, 2017
RATING: 3 of 5 stars
(June 17, 2017)
A sleepy, rundown riverside resort is turned upside-down by the accidental release of local fairies from Oberon’s court. Playwright Merlyn Q. Sell deftly balances modern characters, wandering through on their cell phones, with a closet sorceress who is fond of crossword puzzles, hippie inspired Ariel munching on cheese snacks, and eerily cruel other-worldly tricksters.
The underlying sense of magic in the play is hinted at from the first scene, as Cal saunters in overtly wearing a Dumbledore’s Army t-shirt. Weaving in and out are discussions regarding the nature of magic and its interaction with humans and fairy kind, touching on the idea that there is something missing from both that can only be found when working together without ulterior motive. Although it borrows heavily from William Shakespeare’s plays, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Coriolanus, the story is entirely of Sell’s devising, and extremely clever; it twists and turns with philosophical musings and its emphasis on the importance of family is oddly comforting.
Olivia Rooney (Andy) always delights with her nuanced expressions and vivacious personality. In this role, she struggles with classic millennial frustrations—after graduating school and working hard to make ends meet, her dreams are crushed, and she returns home, defeated and desperate for something to give her a reason to get up in the morning and continue the fight. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Cal (Conor O’Shaughnessy) who accepts his lot in life and makes the best of it, not wanting excitement to upset that equilibrium. His choices throughout the story, leading to a difficult, but necessary decision at the end, are steady and logical, saving the world from being overrun by wild sorcery.
Nick Christenson’s bumbling, scatterbrained Ariel retains childlike enthusiasm and wonder, which is maddening and endearing simultaneously. Straight talking Roxie (Jana Molina) and Toni (Alexis Evon) are the sort of strong female characters I appreciate seeing on stage. Although his portrayal is rather over-the-top, Paul Menconi’s Professor has a dramatic presence, and as the evening progressed, he loosened up and become more comfortable inhabiting his character. The two nefarious fairies, Triniculo (Noel Yates) and Stefano (Rusty Thompson) oil their way through the action with vile elegance and poise, turning invisible when it suits them.
There is almost no need for a set, because the play was commissioned with the miniature stage beside Russian River in mind, and its dancing boughs of trees from surrounding groves are often referenced, becoming characters in their own right. While the cast needs more rehearsal time to work through kinks in timing and dropped lines, they bring the story to life, and the patchwork of contemporary slang with Shakespearean language I find to be highly entertaining. Tempestuous is a warmhearted, magical play set in the natural beauty of Guerneville’s Riverkeeper Stewardship Park.
A note if you plan to attend: Walk down behind Sonoma Nesting Company where the bridge begins, do not cross the bridge, but continue straight to the other side of the road and look for tall banners marking the trail entrance. Follow the brief meandering riverside trail until you reach the box office in a circular paved area. Cushioned seating is provided, but bring extra blankets or pillows if you like for a more comfortable experience.