Twisted web


By William Shakespeare
Directed by Miriam Eusebio
What We Will Productions
New Perspectives Theatre
750 Eighth Avenue (279-4200) or
Equity showcase (closes August 24)
Review by Steve Gold

The plot of Pericles has more twists than a Coney Island pretzel. But with their generally appealing staging, What We Will Productions was able to rescue coherence from a sea of narrative chaos.

A complete summary would devour an entire issue of oobr, and so we must settle for the Monarch Notes version. One of the key issues involves the incestuous relationship between King Antiochus (George Castillo) and his daughter. Antiochus has composed a riddle to keep prospective suitors from running off with his little girl. Pericles (Seneca Burr), the latest of her suitors, makes the mistake of correctly answering the riddle, which refers directly to the incest. Pericles is appalled. Antiochus panics, thinking Pericles will go public with the information. He orders Thaliard (Carrie Edel) to kill him, but Pericles flees the city before that happens, setting in motion an over-the-years saga which incorporates such piquant themes as resurrection and prostitution (though no resurrected prostitutes appear). Along the way, Pericles marries the admirable Thaisa (Guen Donohue) and sires the even more admirable Marina (Edel). Marina, in turn, must contend with her evil guardian Dionyza (Donohue). There is more, much more that occurs. The plot boomerangs from one city to another, to often dizzying effect - Shakespeare on amphetamines.

Director Miriam Eusebio used a Lilliputian budget to conjure a phantasmagoric world in which coincidence is the norm. The majority of her actors played multiple roles, the result of which was sometimes confusing. But the story remained decipherable. Edel displayed sweetness and gumption as the put-upon Marina. Castillo imparted a strong and nasty edge to Antiochus, but his performance in the female role of Bawd, Marina's would-be pimp, was a bit too limp-wristed for taste. Donohue was all charm as Thaisa, and she was equally persuasive as the villianess Dionyza, who raises Marina to adulthood and then plots to kill her when she is overcome with jealousy. Robbie Tylor's Cleon, the conscience-stricken husband of Dionyza, intelligently conveyed the character's deep ambivalence at the thought of doing away with the saintly Marina; and though James Shanley was not quite believable as Lychorida, Marina's nurse, he was fine as Helicanus, Pericles's second-in command. Leah Burnette was potent as Simonides, father of Thaisa, a man of fundamental decency who helps Pericles at a time when he could use a friend. The play is narrated by the 14th-century poet John Gower, and Corey Tazmania Steib was puckishly assured in the role.

Eusebio interpolated one or two modern colloquialisms into the text. It should be noted, however, that the chances of improving Shakespearean dialogue are not, on the whole, very high; she was not successful here. Nonetheless, her overall grasp of the play was firm, and she assembled a cast of infectiously energetic players.

Costumes (uncredited) were of modern, casual derivation: street urchin-cum-Godspell. Light and sound (both uncredited) were minimal yet serviceable. Katherine Marie Atkins's choreography (especially her depiction of a raging sea storm) was most inventive. Rachael Shroeder, described in the program as a "movement consultant," presumably had a hand (and foot) in the choreography as well.
Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Set: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 Steve Gold