After three successful seasons, the Annapolis Shakespeare Company is completing its final production as a resident theater company at Bowie Playhouse with a fine production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," continuing weekends through Aug. 17.
Annapolis Shakespeare was founded in 2009 by Sally Boyett as a workshop group and quickly rose to become an accomplished performance company at Bowie Playhouse. Nevertheless, when the troupe made its Bowie debut in 2011 with "Twelfth Night," one could hardly have anticipated it outgrowing this venue in just three years. But it has, and future shows are all scheduled for Annapolis venues.
Boyett said she is appreciative of "what the playhouse allowed us to accomplish over the past three years, in building a professional aesthetic that few companies have attained so early in their ... lives. I will always be grateful for the opportunity of being a resident Playhouse company for three years."
As director, Boyett ranks among the top of those Playhouse residents, creating professional-caliber productions that have also been quite innovative.
In 2012, she showed courageous insight in choosing a "Romeo and Juliet" cast made up of actors age 18 and under, and she continually set the bar high for young players.
Boyett's sense of the Bard's adaptability was apparent in 2012 when she set "Comedy of Errors" in 1890s Paris, then set "Much Ado About Nothing" on a 1950s U.S. Navy-inhabited island in a 2013 production. Both works gained new relevance with these time shifts.
In its final Bowie Playhouse production, Annapolis Shakespeare sets "The Tempest" in the Bard's own era. For only the second time, Boyett does not direct. Instead, she chose as "Tempest" director Jay D. Brock, who has guided more than 50 productions spanning classic drama, musicals and operas from coast to coast.
Finding a worthy colleague, Boyett takes on the role of choreographer. Hallmarks of Annapolis Shakespeare productions have included stunning opening scenes to draw the audience in with music. This show follows that formula. Spirited athletic portrayals are delivered by younger cast members, while more mature lead roles are handled with grace by Equity professionals.
"The Tempest" is a complex work. Its message of revenge and forgiveness is expressed by protagonist Prospero, once the Duke of Milan, now banished by his brother Antonio and stranded on an island with daughter Miranda. Prospero's study of sorcery helps him create a storm that brings Antonio's son, Ferdinand, to this island, where he falls in love with Miranda.
As Prospero, Brian Keith MacDonald commands every scene as a formidable avenger set on retribution against Antonio, well played by Grant Cloyd. Prospero transitions from vengeance to forgiveness — partly motivated by concern for the happiness of Miranda, whose role is given youthful exuberance and passion by Jenny Donovan.
Prospero's protectiveness is displayed in his treatment of servant Caliban, played by Alex Zavostovich, while another of Prospero's servants, Ariel, has earned his affectionate respect.
As Ariel, Raven Bonniwell is in her Annapolis Shakespeare debut, and delivers a compelling portrayal through dance-like movements and language. Also making a strong debut is young Shakespearean actor David Mavricos, suitably spirited and princely as Ferdinand.
Splendid traditional Renaissance costumes are designed by Maggie Cason, who also earns high marks for her imaginative sea nymphs, offering an appearance that evokes swirling winds. Contributing to the production's overall excellence are scene designer Andrew Cohen and lighting designer Catherine Giarardi, along with sound designer and composer Gregg Martin.
"The Tempest" continues through Aug. 17 with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, Bowie. Tickets can be ordered online at AnnapolisShakespeare.org or at Box Office at 410-415-3513.
Boyett will continue Annapolis Shakespeare's Comedies in the Courtyard series at Reynolds Tavern every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. with Molière's "The Imaginary Invalid" through October 7. Tickets are $16 in advance.
Annapolis Shakespeare began as a company for students, many of whom are still involved in the troupe's separate Young Company. As a member of Theatre Washington/Helen Hayes awards, the company has become a major professional theater in Maryland's capital city.
The company's next full season in Annapolis will include "Macbeth," scheduled for Oct. 24-Nov. 23, at the troupe's black box Studio 111 Theater at 111 Chinquapin Round, Annapolis. Starring in title role will be Brit Herring, last seen in Annapolis in Bay Theatre's "Lips Together, Teeth Apart" and "The Foreigner."
'Macbeth" will be followed by Jane Austin's "Sense and Sensibility," scheduled for Jan. 23-Feb. 26, 2015, at Studio 111. Next will be Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities," March 27-April 26, also at Studio 111.
Looking far ahead, the 2015 summer season outdoors will be at St. John's College, Reynolds Tavern and other venues, and will include Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona" May 25- June 28. The season will end with Pierre Corneille's 17th-century play "The Liar," Aug. 6-30, 2015.