Actor brings emotional resonance to 'The Tempest'

Vengeance or virtue.

That is the question — or at least the question “The Tempest” asks of Prospero, and William Shakespeare asks of us.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival’s current “Tempest” asks, and answers, in beguiling style, with a production that’s a feast for the senses — and the heart.

Believed to be the last play Shakespeare wrote, “The Tempest” serves as an apt finale, exploring themes and forms, from romantic comedy to political intrigue, addressed in previous works.

And in Prospero — a deposed duke turned island exile, a scholar turned magician — Shakespeare creates one of his most resonant characters. (Some even see Prospero as a stand-in for Shakespeare himself, preparing to withdraw from the wizardry of writing.)

Most “Tempests” are only as good as their Prosperos.

And in Henry Woronicz, this “Tempest” has a vigorous, visionary one, a Prospero whose strength and intelligence bring new emotional resonance to the character — and the entire play.

Much of the credit goes to director B.J. Jones, who emphasizes Prospero’s journey from revenge to forgiveness, while transporting audiences to an enchanted (and frequently enchanting) island realm.

There, Prospero resides with his blossoming daughter Miranda (a spirited Melisa Pereyra) and presides over two very different island denizens: the airy sprite Ariel (ethereally graceful Melinda Parrett) and the beastly Caliban (Corey Jones, whose movements are as eloquent as his line readings).

Ariel helps Prospero conjure the title storm, which triggers a cataclysmic shipwreck, one that conveniently enables Prospero to secure his daughter’s future — and settle scores with his old enemies, especially his duplicitous brother (a chilling Martin Kildare).

How, and why, Prospero opts to drop his plans for vengeance — and instead forgive those who have wronged him — makes for a most moving voyage, filled with humor and wonder in equal measure.

The design team (scenic designer Robert Mark Morgan, costume designer David Kay Mickelsen and lightning designer Donna Ruzika) and composer Joe Payne create a persuasive tropical backdrop for the magic.

And, speaking of magic, Jones cannily deploys some flashy special effects that accentuate Prospero’s otherworldly powers.

But, as always, “The Tempest’s” most memorable special effects involve the glories of Shakespeare’s language — and the performers who bring it so memorably to life.

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.