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
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.
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.
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.
The New York Times