Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre usually slots the Bard for July, the central month of its calendar. This season brings Shakespeare's The Tempest - a comedy that offers dances and songs and some mystical characters that the audience can see but are invisible to other actors on stage.
A great storm - the tempest of the title - forces Alonso, the King of Naples, and his traveling party to abandon their ship. With Alonso are his brother, Sebastian; his son, Ferdinand; and Antonio, brother of the rightful Duke of Milan, Prospero.
They arrive at a Mediterranean island where Prospero has been exiled with his beautiful daughter, Miranda, for 12 years. Antonio, with the help of Alonso, had overthrown Prospero while Prospero was concentrating on his studies of the arts.
Prospero is served by the spirit servant Ariel, whom he freed from a tree with magic, and the deformed Caliban, the son of a witch.
Ferdinand roams the island and finds Prospero's cave, where he discovers Miranda and falls in love. On another part of the island are Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio and kindly philosopher Gonzalo - all of whom Ariel causes to fall asleep. Antonio almost persuades Sebastian to kill Alonso before Ariel wakes everyone. Caliban persuades drunken courtier Stephano to kill Prospero, but Ariel overhears and warns Prospero. Later Ariel informs Alonso, Sebastian and Antonio that their cruelty to Prospero caused their sorrows. All is finally resolved with Ferdinand and Miranda together and Prospero regaining his rightful place as Duke of Milan.
At a recent rehearsal, director Barry Genderson promised a few interesting twists and treats in this production of Shakespeare's last major play.
He has set the action in the 1920s and cast women in most of the principal roles. This marks a radical departure, considering that in Shakespeare's day women were not allowed on the stage; female roles were played by men.
Genderson said he was pleased to have Lynne Wilson design the sets and Valerie Durhan serve as choreographer. During rehearsal, Durhan leads her dance troupe in some classic Greek-like moves.
In Summer Garden's production, main character Prospero becomes Prosper as played by trained Shakespearean actress Maud Gleason, who studied at Oxford University's British American Dramatic Academy and brought fire and passion to the role of Katherine in Taming of the Shrew during Summer Garden's last season.
"This is a romance comedy with a great deal of mysticism to it," Gleason said at rehearsal. "It has a lot to do with empowerment, and I'm playing it as a mother. There is a vengeful side - a 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' element as well."
Gleason carries at least 50 percent of the play in this Prospero role and is required to learn a tremendous amount of dialogue.
A lovely Maria in Merely Players' West Side Story two seasons back, Elena Crall is now cast as Ariel. Bryan Deehring plays Ferdinand. Two actresses - Genna Davidson and Emily Gerbasi - will alternate in the role of Miranda. Michael Rogers plays Caliban, Robin Davis plays Alonsa and Larry Richman plays Gonzalo.
Others in the cast include Greg Ealick, Jackie McLoughlin, Angela Hilz, Chris Albe, Megan Card, Joshua Riffle, Teresa Riffle, Ashley Hartman, and dancers Celia Crall, Anne Nolan, Ioana Stoica, Lisa Smith and Date Dykeman.
The Tempest runs Thursdays through Sundays, July 1-30. For reservations, call 410-268-9212 or visit www.summergarden.com.