Review of Spirits to Enforce at The Midnight Company

    Spirits to Enforce is delightful script with a madcap premise. The play by Mickel Maher is receiving a brilliant production from The Midnight Company.

    At the outset the characters are sitting at a long table behind a battery of telephones. Their ordinary looks are deceiving. They are a band of superheroes, the Fathom Town Enforcers, who have just defeated their archenemy, Dr. Cannibal. Now they are placing calls from their headquarters in a submarine to raise the money for their next project: staging a revival of The Tempest.

    To encourage donations, the Enforcers are offering a unique premium. They are revealing their secret identities to anyone who gives a minimum of $50. The Enforcers’ powers are unique, too. For example:

    • The Pleaser uses pleasant conversation to persuade criminals to give themselves up
    • The Silhouette can control the hand shadows she casts
    • The Page has read everything that has ever been written and is being written
    • Memory Lass draws out the good in evildoers they have forgotten themselves
    • The Ocean is literally the ocean

    The Enforcers’ interest in The Tempest is explained by their origin story, which is revealed early in the play. They are the spirits Prospero freed at the end of Shakespeare’s play. Maher’s title comes from the epilogue of The Tempest, where Prospero says he no longer has “Spirits to enforce, art to enchant.”

    Each actor in Spirits to Enforce has three roles: a secret identity, a superhero identity, and a character in The Tempest. The actors and their roles are:

    ActorSecret IdentitySuperhero IdentityTempest Character
    Miranda Jagels FelixDonna AdamsThe Silhouetteall masque characters
    Kayla BushDiana BlakeThe Bad MapTinculo
    Celeste GardnerOliver KendallFragrance FellowSebastian
    Ross RubrightCraig CaleThe PleaserAntonio
    Rachel TibbettsSusan TannerMemory LassMiranda
    Alicen MoserCecily GrayThe PageProspero
    Will BonfiglioEmory LawsonArielAriel
    Ash AroraRebecca LloydThe OceanGonzalo
    Joe HanrahanWayne SimonThe UntanglerCaliban
    Spencer LawtonDale ClarkThe IntoxicatorStephano
    Cassidy FlynnRandell JamesThe TuneFerdinand
    Joey TaylorBrad AllenThe Snow Heavy BranchAlonso

    Except in one place, the characters speak all their lines into their phones. As might be expected at a phone bank, much of the dialogue is spoken at the same time. The script indicates where the second of two overlapping speeches should begin, but when blocks of text are to be spoken together, the script says they “should be arranged by the actors/director to suit their pleasure.” Little other guidance is provided.

    The Midnight Company’s production is filled with elaborate, inventive, and intricately coordinated activity. The splendid performances always seem spontaneous, but they mesh perfectly. The ensemble performs like a team of superheroes.

    The atmosphere for the production is greatly enhanced by Jayson Lawshee’s lighting, Joey Taylor’s music, and Liz Henning and Eric Widner’s costumes. The stage manager is Jimmy Bernatowicz, assisted by Morgan Schindler.

    The minimal program says nothing about how the production was put together, but I’m sure its theatrical richness was achieved collectively. Collaboration is key in the work of the director, Lucy Cashion, as is regarding all artists taking part in a project as equally essential to it. The process Cashion led in Spirits to Enforce produced a wealth of marvelous ideas. The show continues through May 18 at the Kranzberg Black Box Theater, 501 North Grand Boulevard.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by Joey Rumpell