The Tempest

Shakespeare Theatre CompanyThe Tempest at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC

Ultimately, the play’s emotional, sympathetic core, the moments which will stick with the audience longest, are thanks to Prospero. Played by veteran Broadway actor Patrick Page, who is widely regarded as one of the country’s finest classical actors, Prospero pitches and rolls from caring father, to cruel master, and controlling sorcerer, finally surrendering his power, and sinking to repentance.

The Weekly Standard

Page as Prospero is simply put, a triumph. With a baritone as deep and roaring as thunder, he is captivating as his stormy eyes crackle with rage one moment and soften with paternal affection the next.

DC Metro Theater Arts

Patrick Page brings life anew to the role of Prospero. Under Ethan McSweeny’s refocusing of the plot as a whole, Page relinquishes the harness of the story’s burden, distributing its weight evenly among the other characters but never falters in his command of presence or potency upon the stage. His ability to tell Prospero’s tale is remarkably clear, drawing the audience into every word as he speaks it. How beauteous his portrayal of the scorned Duke becomes, each passing scene unearthing a layer of compassion and complex emotion. There’s even a cheeky side that knows exacting comic timing— as witnessed in the line “no tongue, all eyes” delivered at precisely the right moment— making the versatility of his portrayal that much more impressive.

Theater Bloom

Page seems born to play the world of a master at his craft and guides us through not only the reckoning of Prospero but a company of actors as if showing them “how it’s all done” – the magic of Shakespeare – and with incomparable ease and grace.

DC Theater Scene

“Seing what Page might do with Prospero was our sole purpose for attending.

What he does is worth seeing again, and again, and again.

That the actors playing characters directly orbiting Page’s Prospero are the ones who have most noticeably elevated their performances is no accident. Part of that is Page playing Prospero, first and foremost, as a father. All that he is and all that he does has fathering as the foundation….Even his intentions of revenge on his enemies—his brother Antonio who usurped him with help from Alonso—seem driven by the fact that they robbed his daughter of a normal childhood befitting a princess. “Twelve years since, Miranda,” he says as he recounts their history, and then, in one of those singular ways Shakespeare repeats himself, he says again, “Twelve years since,” but this time with gall in his tone as he thinks of that lost time. Although it is Arial who inspires Prospero to forgiveness, even this development Page’s Prospero does with his daughter in mind: how much happier her marriage will be if there is a fundamentally sound peace with Alonso, and with Antonio, too. This proves fortuitous when we see Mewbron’s Miranda excitedly greet the shipwrecked lords as this “brave new world, that has such people in’t!” and is looking at Antonio as she says it. “‘Tis new to thee,” Prospero says, Page using an ironic tone, but he’s yet gentle, determined to keep her in such a mindset as long as is practicable.

Upon setting Ariel free, Page’s Prospero removes his duke’s robes, sits on the rock that once anchored Caliban’s chains to take off his shiny boots, and notices the audience—not for the first time, of course, but Page bears an “oh, right, you’re still here” expression. And then he begins Prospero’s epilogue. The speech is written as that of an actor still in character at the end of a play; what makes it so significant here is how this particular actor has displayed such exquisite stagecraft throughout his portrayal of Prospero, starting with his very first appearance, even before he speaks, at the rear of the stage, his back to us, hands upraised conducting the tempest, and then releasing the spell and giving in to exhaustion, clearly spent from the mental and physical effort his magic requires.

His performance is full of such subtly insightful moments, dug up like pignuts from Shakespeare’s lines and welded onto his character’s frame: Moments like his emphasis in the line to Ferdinand and Miranda to “Sit then and talkwith her”; in the way he pages through his book looking for the spell to “Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves”; in the way he realizes that he needs to wear his duke’s regalia for the other lords to recognize him; in his weary and resentful yet eager and energetic bearing. He’s proud of his capabilities, whether it’s the way he brought together his daughter and her future husband—and how he just knew they would be a perfect match—or his coaching Ariel in her tasks. During the pageant, he sits to the side, admiring his work, conducting the music in self-reverie—until he remembers Caliban’s conspiracy yet unfolding and breaks off the spell.

The Tempest has two great speeches: Caliban’s “the isle is full of noises,” and Prospero’s “we are such stuff as dreams are made on.” Both deserve McSweeny’s reverential treatment, giving the stage over to the speaker and letting them play like arias in an opera. Page’s interpretation of Prospero’s speech is not to treat it as merely a prophecy of the world’s end (Shakespeare’s vision, perhaps: I’m always haunted by how a man in 1611 could write about “cloud-capp’d towers” as if he’s seen a modern city skyline) but as a vision suddenly coming upon the powerful magician. As Page talks with gripping intensity of an earth melting into thin air, we see a kind of apocalypse that we sense could be coming closer to reality in a summer when one U.S. presidential candidate repeatedly questions why we don’t use our nuclear weapons if we have them available to us. Why, then, should Prospero or we have much care in what our world becomes?”

Shakespeariences.com