Actors' Theatre of Columbus will draw the curtain on its 2017 season on a decidedly political note.

The troupe's interpretation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" questions the very notion of American exceptionalism.

"My goal certainly is to continue a conversation through the arts about what the nature of power is," said Philip K. Hickman, artistic director for Actors' Theatre.

"I would certainly agree that the United States holds a unique role in the world, certainly at this point in history," Hickman said. "My question is this: Should that unique role result in unique power and privilege?"

"The Tempest" will open at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10, and be performed Thursdays through Saturdays through Sept. 3. All performances are free and open to the public.

There are several modern interpretations interlaced throughout the play. For example, Prospero, the main character, has been changed to a female role, Prospera (played by Susan Wismar).

Once the ruler of Milan, Prospera was sent adrift at sea but through a helpful intervention she landed on an island, where she assumed a position of power. That causes a complicated relationship with the native inhabitants, Hickman said.

"She believes she is doing good for the island," Hickman said. "The islanders see her as a restrictive presence."

Meanwhile, she studies magic instead of attending to affairs of the state, further straining her relationship with the people she rules, director David Harewood said.

"She's oblivious to the effects of exploitation she enacts upon others," Harewood said.

The relationship sets the stage for an interesting romantic comedy about the dynamic of power, Hickman said.

"Like all good comedies -- we're using the Shakespeare sense of comedy -- it ends with marriage, good deeds being rewarded and wicked deeds being answered," he said.

Although, the ending takes a detour from the original version, Harewood said.

"The key would be the reaction by the people she usurped," he said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

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