Rocco Sisto as Caliban and Olympia Dukakis as Prospera in The Tempest at Shakespeare and Company. Photo Kevin Sprague.

A Singer’s Notes 56: The Price

Never have I seen the price of forgiveness so costly on stage as in Olympia Dukakis’s singular, and singularly moving Prospera with Shakespeare and Company. Try to find Rembrandt’s “Prodigal Son” and look carefully at the hands of the patriarch, large hands fully outspread, each finger more generous than the other, pressing on the back of the wayward son with a touch the painting tells us the weight of. This is radical forgiveness, almost a blank forgiveness. It is nearly immoral in its extremity of love, as the Prodigal’s brother tells us. This is the near opposite of what I saw in Ms. Dukakis’s performance. Hers was an assumption of the role which was drenched, sometimes even drowning, in resentment. She played these emotions fundamentally, but I saw them more clearly in her efforts to be gentle. I’m thinking now of the scene between Prospera and Miranda near the beginning of the play which was like no other performance I have seen. It was slow, way slow, but Ms. Dukakis is the mistress of time.

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