Shakespearean soap

The Winter's Tale

By William Shakespeare
Directed by John Basil
American Globe Theatre
146 W. 46th St. (869-9809)
Equity showcase (closes Nov 21)
Review by Sheila Mart

A pregnant woman is unjustly accused by her husband of having an affair with his boyhood friend, supposedly the father of the unborn child - doesn't this smack of a modern sitcom situation? The Bard dreamed this up over 400 years ago for The Winter's Tale. Leontes, King of Sicilia, is the jealous husband accusing his wife the Queen, Hermione, of seducing his boyhood friend Polixenes, King of Bohemia. He orders the murder of his friend and the arrest of his wife. His friend escapes, but Hermione doesn't get off that easily. She stands trial, is branded a harlot, and eventually imprisoned. Her baby girl is born and is rejected by Leontes. Hermione's confidante Paulina tries to give her emotional support, but Hermione and her son Mamillius are soon found dead. Antigonus, Paulina's husband, leaves the babe to die in a makeshift crib on the beaches off the coast of Bohemia. But guess what? Polixenes is King of Bohemia, and all is saved, although Antigonus dies - running into the jaws of a hungry bear. True to the "soap" tradition, good triumphs over evil - Hermione's baby girl, Perdita, is raised by an Old Shepherd, who has no idea whose child she is.

In the second half (or second hour in TV parlance), Perdita is grown and she gets to meet and fall in love with Florizel, Prince of Bohemia (Polixenes's son). Hermione is found, miraculously, to be still alive, and is reunited with Leontes - the happy ending just in time for the 11 o'clock news!

This production by the American Globe Theatre was well worth a visit. It was entertaining and performed by actors who have not only been trained to interpret the rhythm of the verse (with one or two exceptions), but also appear to know what they are talking about, which doesn't happen too often with Off-Off-Broadway Shakespearean productions.

The acting was on a consistently high ensemble level. The Leontes of Richard Fay and Elizabeth Keefe's Hermione were standouts, as was the Polixenes of Brian J. Coffey. Jennifer Curfman was an ideal Perdita, and while Sandra Parris gave an emotional presentation of Paulina, some modulation would have had more effect. The same could be said of Tom Demenkofl's Antigonus (Paulina's husband). Speaking of voice production, a necessary component for Shakespeare, Malcolm Van Couvering as Mamillius should be given some coaching in elocution. Paul Henry Rosson as Apollo, Daphne and the Time Puppeteer did a most commendable job. He is a fabulous puppet designer.

The direction by John Basil was visually flawless, given the confines of the set and the space. However, one would wish for more vocal modulation from all of the actors. Yes it's great to be heard, but greater dramatic impact can be made with variation.

The bare yet effective set, consisting of an arch and a series of steps, designed by Vincent A. Masterpaul, was effective.

The costumes of Terry Leong were most imaginative - especially the symbolism of the first half in dark or black costumes, contrasting with the bright "happy" colors of the second half.

Kim Thompson deserves praise for her choreography in the second half.

(Also featuring Douglas Wunsch, Kelley McKinnon, Raymond Jordan, Erika Lynn Becker, James S. McClure, Michael B. Healey, Julia McLaughlin, Jim Gollman, Rainard Rachele, and Coleman Zeigen. Lights: Paul Ziemer; Sound: David Pinkard.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 Sheila Mart