You must see EclecticPond Theatre Company's sci-fi adaptation of The Tempest, retitled The Tempest: Adrift in Time. But arrive early, because the theater — Playground Production Studio at 5529 Bonna Ave., Ste. 10 — is hard to find. Not to mention that the stage is cramped and awkward, some of the costumes are anachronous, and the nautical references don’t quite grok with the aeronautics of the adaptation. But still, see it.
The exquisite cast is led by Joanna Winston, a female version of wizard sorcerer Prospero, here the "great aviatrix" Prosprina Milan, who disappeared in the '30s during a flight over the Bermuda Triangle. Winston effortlessly and gracefully plays the puppet master of the mysterious island on which she's stranded. Bradford Reilly is a delight as Ferdinand, taking yet another lovesick Shakespearean gallant and refreshingly making him a lively, genuine kid in ecstasy over the girl of his dreams.
Brian G. Hartz takes the woefully under-appreciated Stephano to new heights of humor, playing him with a kind of preposterous dignity and bravado. It's an entirely fresh take on this classic clown. Another bright note is Frankie Bolda, who mines the normally sober Ariel for some moments of deadpan jocularity.
Above all, credit is due to director Carey Shea, who has created a fresh, fun, and valid adaptation with a bold and steady hand. Everything that didn't come strictly from the script still felt natural and right. One would not be surprised to see Prince Vultan come flying onto the set with his hawkmen. The play’s magical creatures are transformed into ersatz extraterrestrials, the conjurations have become acts of electronic genius, and the wizard is now something of a technomancer.
One splendid example of Shea’s formidable skills: The way he combines the characters of the clown Stephano with the captain of the titular, tempest-tossed vessel that features in the opening of the show. This move streamlined the cast and added fun bits of foreshadowing to the character. That, and any buffoon behind aviator glasses becomes twice as funny.
Shea also adapts Prospero’s/Prosprina’s rival Antonio into the female Antonia, creating a character amusingly and devilishly similar to Lady Macbeth, and played with the gusto of a Bond villain by Kate Homan. Also notable is a cleverly skewed look at Ferdinand’s labors — those familiar with Prospero/Prosprina’s plans for his/her books will find the interpretation terribly significant.
Paige Scott composed original music for the mystical “spells” worked by Ariel and his fellow sprites. Her melodies perfectly match the hypnotic charms of the lyrics provided by the original text; they are surreal and transcendentally lovely, appropriate for an isle “full of noises, sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.” Finally, Lydia Burris's strange, lovely artwork on display in the lobby perfectly complements the show.