Shakespeare for Everyone

 

1998
Prospect Park
Picnic House

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by William Shakespeare
directed by Jonathan Bank

 

If it's not in Pericles, maybe it isn't possible in theater.  This wonderful old bag of tricks has everything — murder, kidnapping, drowning, lost children, resurrections, political intrigue, divine vengeance, a bordello redeemed by a virgin, admired rulers whose sex lives would arch Satan's eyebrow, pimps, homicidal jealousy, labor induced by a hurricane, birth onstage and eternal love.  The opening scene portrays father-daughter incest so vividly that television would have to warn you to shield your children from it.  What a play!

Its language tells you it was composed by at least a few hands over many years; some lines are almost as medieval as the underlying wildly romantic story, brought from the Continent into English by the poet John Gower in the 14th century.  And if the most sophisticated playwrights and actors around Shakespeare knew his greatest plays were Olympian while Pericles was pulp, Pericles was wildly popular with the crowds down in the pit.  The production, directed by Jonathan Bank, lets you know why.  Ten actors revolving through all the roles — occasionally pausing to tell the audience where they are as the action hop scotches across the Mediterranean — carry viewers from helpless laughter to rigid apprehension to mourning and back to mirth with scarcely a moment of emotional disorientation.

It is remarkable to see people gleefully cheering as a Pander, his house madam and a pimp are thwarted and then defeated by a teenage girl of terrifying virtue in an episode as funny as any in Elizabethan theater, and then, minutes later, to shed tears as Pericles, deprived of his wits by hopeless loss, recognizes that this girl is the daughter he believed had perished at birth in a storm  — a scene that embodies a poem as perfect as any in the language.

Mr. Bank has been working on this play for 10 years, and he and this cast exploit the text as they ought to — shamelessly and with an eye to irresistible entertainment. They trim excessive or murky speeches, borrow lines from a contemporary book that we would now call a novelized version of the play and do not hesitate to let the audience know how much they enjoy their work, especially when they can seize the villainous roles.  It had to be like this in Shakespeare's time: no story stays at the top of the charts for 200 years without devotees who know how to make people feel happy to hear it over and over.

D.J.R. Bruckner
 The New York Times

 

CAST

Pericles Allyn Burrows
Thaisa, Marina Devon Sovari
King Antiochus,
King Simonides, Lord Cerimon,
Bawd
Timothy Joseph Ryan*
Cleon, Lysimachus Felix Solis
King Antiochus' Duaghter, Dionya,
Diana
Kelly McShain
Helicanus, Pander David Winton
*Member of Actors' Equity Association (AEA)

CREW

Stage Manager Allison Deutsch
Set Designer John Pollard
Lighting Designer Charles Cameron
Chorus Movement Cindy Clark
Composer Peter Griggs
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