Thinking of heading out to a local park to watch one of the many free, open-air theatrical productions on view this summer? Here is the lowdown from our reviewers on several of these offerings. For reviews of additional shows, pick up Friday’s Weekend Plus or check seattletimes.com/entertainment on Friday:
“The Tempest,” Seattle Shakespeare Company/Wooden O
Amy Thone, one of Seattle’s consummate Shakespearean performers, brings a rangy intensity and maternal dignity to the traditionally male role of Prospero in Wooden O Productions’ “The Tempest.”
The gender switch-up (which Helen Mirren also achieved in Julie Taymor’s 2010 film of “The Tempest”) brings a fascinating, matriarchal light to the deposed Duke of Milan-turned-magician’s key relationships with lovestruck daughter Miranda (a buoyant Anastasia Higham); the latter’s suitor, Ferdinand (a pleasing Jonathan Crimeni); servant-spirit Ariel (cast as a mesmerizing trio: Olivia Hartshorn, Tonya Andrews and Scott Ward Abernethy); and lowly monster Caliban (a shambling, bellicose Brian D. Simmons).
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In another sex change, Prospero’s wicked sibling Antonio is effectively played as a leather-skirted cutthroat by Meg McLynn, paving the way to a unique, sisterly feel during the characters’ ultimate reconciliation.
Director Kelly Kitchens and the design team conjure Prospero’s island and powers with a spare, rustic set and the occasional sound effect (it’s best not to sit too near a speaker). The wrecking of Antonio’s ship and separation of its passengers is both startling and comic in its rendering, and if the drunken high jinks of Trinculo (Donna Wood) and Stephano (Mike Dooly) are a little too protracted, both actors have fresh appeal.
By William Shakespeare, at parks around the region through Aug. 11 (www.seattleshakespeare.org/woodeno).
Tom Keogh, Special to The Seattle Times
“The Magic Pudding,” Theater Schmeater
“Not everyone is a pudding thief,” someone tries to assure the suspicious Bill Barnacle the sailor (Aaron Allshouse) in Theater Schmeater’s “The Magic Pudding,” an adaptation of the children’s book by Norman Lindsey. But there are certainly some determined bandits after Albert the Pudding (Nathan Pringle), including wily Wombat (Lori Lee Haener) and a “singed” Possum (Noah Luce).
In this cheerful, no-frills production that had a number of small children crowding the edge of the amphitheater at Volunteer Park, Bill and his friends (Mike Jones, Cole Hornaday) are duped more than once (at one point, the criminals cover them with a giant bag, resulting in the spectacle of a six-legged sack shuffling across the stage).
Terrance Boyd adds to the fun as (among other characters) the rather formidable, no-nonsense Rooster, and Anna Giles and Ian Gerrard bring added sparkle to the menagerie of lively critters involved in this case of pilfered pudding. Director J.D. Lloyd gets a lot of mileage out of a few masks and spare props, and the cast’s inventive movements and voices bring a sassy charm to this silly (but ultimately wise) story.
Adapted by Julia Leonas from a book by Norman Lindsey, 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through July 28 at Volunteer Park, Seattle (www.schmeater.org).
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” GreenStage
Is there any Shakespeare play more perfectly suited to the outdoors than “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”? Figuring in the plot are woodland fairies, a flower-borne love potion and pairs of mixed-up lovers running pell-mell through the forest. Last Sunday evening, under a crescent moon at the Seward Park Amphitheatre, “Midsummer” — presented by GreenStage — worked its magic anew.
Director Ken Michels tossed a number of ideas into the mix, including circus and silent-movie motifs. The sets and costumes didn’t exactly hang together, but they weren’t a distraction, either, and brisk pacing and a few standout comic performances carried the evening.
Taylor Davis charmed as Puck; David Rollison and Gina Marie Russell generated sparks as the sparring fairy royals, Oberon and Titania; and Luke Sayler stole the show as the blustering Bottom.
Technical difficulties delayed the start of the Seward Park show by nearly a half-hour (the troupe uses footlights, though not microphones, at least at this venue), but the play still concluded by late twilight, under an airborne ballet of gnats and fireflies.
By Shakespeare, presented in rotation with GreenStage’s “King Lear” at through Aug. 17 at area parks (www.greenstage.org).
Lynn Jacobson, Seattle Times features editor