Review: 'The Tempest' Fuses Shakespeare and Real-Life Struggles

Asylum Theatre Company's production of Shakespeare's last play is a very personal experience for director and adaptor Valeri Lantz-Gefroh.

Valeri Lantz-Gefroh of Rocky Point drew the inspiration for her surreal adaptation of The Tempest not only from what she viewed as end-of-life sentiments inherent in Shakespeare's last play, but also from a real-life experience: her mother's death several years ago.

Lantz-Gefroh envisioned a storm inside of a hospital where doctors struggle to revive Prospero, on his deathbed, one last time – which allows him to eventually forgive the family betrayals that have isolated him as if he were on an island, and to also find hope for a new life for his daughter Miranda.

"My mom's end was a storm. It was brutally painful for her," Lantz-Gefroh said. "And I dont know what she was working through ... but it was that kind of force. So I spent a lot of time in the hospital and it feels like you're in an island when you're in the hospital. To me it was just an emotional parallel that I drew."

Her husband, Steven Lantz-Gefroh, plays Prospero as emotionally strong despite the physical weaknesses he is experiencing at the end of his life. Dominant and even manipulative at times, he eventually forgives his brother Antonio for betraying him – in Shakespeare's version, by usurping his position as Duke of Milan and banishing him to a deserted island – along with Alonza, the Queen of Naples, who had also been instrumental in Propsero's isolation.

Prospero instructs the spirit Ariel at times like a servant and at times like a friend or former lover. Deborah Mayo plays Ariel like a ray of light throughout the performance, perhaps taking on the appearance of a former patient at Prospero's hospital as well. Diana Lucia is Miranda as Shakespeare himself must have surely envisioned her – an innocent beauty, Prospero's devoted daughter, who deserves the wonderful future that has been laid out for her.

The director has posed Shakespeare's clowns as the doctors in the hospital – played by Rob Shilling and Jillian Cross – working so hard but unable to achieve the impossible of saving Prospero's life.

"I mean no disrespect to the medical community in this concept, but use the notion symbolically as the ultimate folly of even our brightest thinkers in the face of nature itself," writes Valeri Lantz-Gefroh in her program notes.

Her visualization of The Tempest is full of intensity, full of emotion, and much more than the sum of its parts. Catch The Tempest on Oct. 6, Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 at 8 p.m., or Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. Tickets: $18 Adult/$10 Students. For tickets, call 631-721-6690 or head to the Staller Center's Theater 2 one hour prior to curtain.


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