Bag&Baggage Mounts a Bilingual Production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”

The revels have come to Hillboro’s parks.

Shakespeare in the park comes to Hillsboro with Bag&Baggage’s production of The Tempest, which plays at various locations around the Portland suburb through Aug. 28. Everything about this Tempest is truncated: Five actors pull off all the roles and the show’s 90-minute runtime means that audiences are in for a speedy trip to Prospero’s island.

The bilingual adaptation by TS McCormick and director Yasmin Ruvalcaba seamlessly interweaves Spanish with the original verse, adding an interesting layer to the Bard’s tale of a mystical father, his beloved daughter and the visitors who enter their isolated realm. Lines in English and Spanish are spoken interchangeably, often delivered in the same breath.

There are no supertitles, but the majority of the dialogue is conducted in English, and those who have a couple of years of high school Spanish should fare all right. Regardless, the combination of Spanish and Shakespeare’s English makes for an exciting linguistic handshake.

Kudos to the actors, who rise to the marathon challenge of playing multiple characters. Khail Duggan, Desiree Roy and Josh Rocchi carry most of the play’s action, alternating between the shipwrecked royals Ferdinand, Sebastian and Alonso, as well as the comic trio of Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban. (Rocchi brings especially convincing physical differentiation in his portrayals of Caliban and Alonso, the Neapolitan king.)

As Prospero, Demetri Tostado does away with the common interpretation of the character as a stern patriarch, projecting a warmth that is almost infectious—when he addresses the audience, there is always a glimmer in the eye and a smile. Tostado’s Prospero is a loving man who forgives his backstabbing brother and tenderly embraces Ariel (Calista Rodriguez) after finally freeing the spirit.

For the first half of the play, Spanish is mostly spoken between Prospero and Miranda (also played by Rodriguez), but by the end of the play, most of the characters seem to understand Prospero’s Spanish directives. Unless Ferdinand was cramming Duolingo offstage, perhaps Prospero’s magic enables people to achieve fluency in a few hours.

The adaptation’s quick runtime means that some of the play’s beloved features are cut. Gonzalo, the aging optimist who is part of King Alonso’s retinue, is entirely absent, and the subplot involving Sebastian’s attempt to dethrone Alonso is trimmed to such an extent that those unfamiliar with the play might miss it altogether. Cutting Shakespeare’s text is necessary to bring a fresh perspective to his plays, but one omission here was especially puzzling.

Late in the story, Prospero summons a company of spirits to perform for Miranda and Ferdinand, who are newly engaged. At the end of this “masque,” Prospero launches into the play’s famous “Our revels now are ended” monologue. Sadly, only the first two lines make it into the production. As written, the monologue offers a stunning double entendre description of magic and the nature of theater, and surely could have been realized wonderfully in Spanish.

It doesn’t help that uncooperative microphones plagued the actors for much of the performance I attended. Not infrequently, the mics distorted their voices so much that lines were entirely lost (I felt especially bad for Rodriguez, whose mic seemed to have a mind of its own, turning on and off every other line). Given the intimate crowd that was gathered, I’m not sure amplification was necessary in the first place. The show would have been better off acoustic.

Those willing to make the commute to Hillsboro should leave early. I wandered around Rood Bridge Park for some time before finding the performance, but the park provided a beautiful backdrop to the stage, and the neighborhood noises blended nicely into the play’s soundscape. By the time the show ended, the sun had fully set. The revels had indeed ended.

SEE IT: Bag&Baggage Productions’ The Tempest plays at Griffin Oaks Park, 1800 NE Griffin Oaks St., Hillsboro, Aug. 18-21; Shute Park, 750 SE 8th Ave., Hillsboro, Aug. 25-28. 8 pm. Free. Reserve your spot at bagnbaggage.org.