The Freeport Shakespeare Festival’s inaugural performance of Shakespeare’s magical masterpiece, “The Tempest,” Tuesday night at L.L. Bean Discovery Park bodes well for the continuation of the program under director Julie George-Carlson.

It was well staged, professionally played with enthusiasm and clarity and incorporated myriad nice touches, such as the impressive and sometimes frightening puppets by Figures of Speech Theater, Elizabethan music by the Greater Freeport Community Chorus, a fine percussion ensemble, and marvelously active child players as the spirits: Benjamin Donnangelo as Drogo; Emilie Estabrook as Calypso; Abbi King as Anima; Riley Mayes as Fawnette, Angela Moline as Urania, and Isabella St. Cyr as Echo.

A concern of all Shakespearian productions is getting a modern audience to understand the Elizabethan dialog without sacrificing its poetry, wit and constant double entendres. The scene after the shipwreck, in which Prospero, played by Dennis McLernon, narrates the history of his sojourn on the island to his daughter, Miranda (Grania Power), was admittedly a little slow going, in spite of the preceding mime of the marriage of Claribel to the King of Tunis, the event which sets the political plot in motion.

The appearance of the monster and slave Caliban, played with Golum-like humor and menace by Matt Power, lightens everything up and the linguistic skies clear brilliantly, until even the murky politics of 17th-century Italy become crystal clear. Later, when Caliban latches on to Stephano, played by Paul D. Farwell, and his sidekick Trinculo (Harold Withee), the drunken slapstick humor is a joy to behold.

James Noel Hoban is fine as the spirit Ariel, who does his master Prospero’s bidding with glee, in spite of obvious resentment at the magician’s repeated failure to release him as promised, after just one last job.

One of the many interesting things about “The Tempest” is that it has no hero except language. Everyone is flawed, some more than others, as if Shakespeare set out to illustrate his maxim that if everyone got his just deserts, who should escape a whipping? Prospero, for example, is the playwright himself as a procrastinating bookworm, who nevertheless manages to forgive murderers, thieves, an old royal lecher and his own usurping brother.

Miranda and her lover Ferdinand, in a charming performance by Benedetto Robinson, are a happy Romeo and Juliet, but even more innocent. They provide the key to reconciliation of the plot and also the pretext for a spectacular engagement, attended by gods and spirits.

Like “Hansel and Gretel” last week, “The Tempest” would serve as a good introduction to Shakespeare for children. If they don’t understand the plot, there is always something going on to hold attention. Admission is free with seating on the lawn. The play starts at 7 p.m. and ends about 9:30.

Christopher Hyde’s Classical Beat column appears in the Maine Sunday Telegram. He can be reached at:

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