CHAUTAUQUA - The 2014 season of the Chautauqua Theater Company is ending this week, with a final production of ''The Tempest,'' by William Shakespeare.
The production is full of new and unexpected elements, and is a reasonable version of the play. Director Jade King Carroll created a production which moves along steadily, although occasionally at the expense of the plot line.
The play is the story of Prospero, who was the Duke of Milan until his younger brother made a deal with the King of Naples that Prospero should be removed from his position and set adrift in a leaky boat, with his only child, a daughter, while his city was given to his treacherous brother to rule on behalf of Naples.
The play begins with a great storm, which catches the royal family of Naples as they return from a daughter's wedding. The storm has been created by Prospero, who has used his time in exile to study magic. He has created the storm to bring all his former enemies into his control so that he can teach them the evil of their ways. At the same time, he has selected Prince Ferdinand, son of the Neapolitan King, to become the husband of Miranda, his only daughter.
I've seen dozens of productions of this play and, in all but one, the important first scene, aboard the ship, is inaudible because of the sounds of the storm. So it was in this production.
The first surprise of the production is that Prospero is played by a female actor - one of highest quality, Lisa Harrow. There was a recent feature film of the play, in 2010, which starred Helen Mirren as Prospera, the character changed in gender to a vengeful mother, rather than an angry father. In the Chautauqua production, the character remains a man, but one played by a woman.
Designer Lee Savage envisioned Prospero's island as a desert, nothing but sand and rocks. Loren Shaw's costumes looked good on the cast, without exception, but much of their charm was absorbed in contrast to the colorless set.
Kate Abruzzese and Tramell Tillman were attractive and charming as the young lovers. Pretty Chasten Harmon was surprisingly earth-bound as Prospero's enslaved air spirit, and Christian DeMarais seemed smiling and almost light hearted as the bitter, angry Caliban, Prospero's earth spirit.
There was definitely a sense of ''We need to get everyone into the cast,'' with this production, which was unfair to the immensely talented actors throughout the company. It wasn't a bad production, but it isn't one you'll write home to praise, either.
The production will repeat through Saturday in the Bratton Theater, on the Grounds of Chautauqua Institution.