A precious gem
The Winter’s Tale
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by John Basil
American Globe Theatre,
Equity showcase (through April 5th)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh
The Winter’s Tale feels like two separate Shakespearean plays. The first half is a dark tragedy about jealous mistrust, but then the second morphs into a whimsical farce. American Globe Theatre delves into the schizophrenic show with great aplomb delivering a heart-wrenching drama and a sidesplitting comedy, all in one.
The first three acts of the tale follow Leontes, King of Sicilia. He watches his wife, Hermione, slightly flirting with his friend, Polixenes, King of Bohemia, and decides they must be having an affair. He proceeds to go melodramatically crazy, which leads to much unhappiness including the exiling of his newborn daughter, whom he thinks isn’t really his, to a far-away land. The last two acts take place sixteen winters later, and become a farce concerning the long lost princess, her suitor and her adoptive family.
The troublesome show was ably directed by the exquisite John Basil. The brisk pacing, the spread-out staging and the fierce energy made the hours fly by. Alisa Claire’s choreography was regally austere in the first half, while jovially spry during the latter half.
The actors ranged from wonderful to adequate without any being dreadful, which is unusual for inexpensive Shakespeare. The major highlight was Richard Fay as King Leontes – he had a meticulous line reading, hitting every single word with nuance. It was clear he understood every phrase he uttered, and he embodied the envious passion deeply. Mat Sanders made an impression as Autolycus, the rogue, by being unexpectedly silly and insouciantly clever.
Technically the show was uniformly dark in the first half, and light in the second. The consistency of the set, light, sound and costumes was quite effective. Kevin Lee Allen’s set was layered and many-leveled. It nicely split the playing area, creating an ambience that was cold and heartless – just like the King. The use of only black and blue in the sets produced a bruised feeling, while orange in the second half helped create its whimsical mood. The lights by Mark Hankla followed suit by using blues and whites creating a dark, melancholy blue for the first part and a sky-lighted blue in the second. Jim Parks’ costumes kept the color motifs, as well as being appropriately period. Finally, Scott O’Brien’s sound effects and music vacillated from ominously minor in the first section to fancifully gay in the second.
Overall, American Globe Theater produced a first-rate production of The Winter’s Tale. While other companies may be jealous of their skill, the audience should never mistrust them.
Copyright 2008 by Seth Bisen-Hersh
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