The ancient elements figured prominently in director Miriam Eusebio's evocative new production of Shakespeare's Pericles at Expanded Arts. Light flowing costumes of cotton, linen, and all-natural fibers in beige, green, brown, and blue, gave the impression of a cast emerging from the ground, the sea, and the air, creating a rich, textured world. Props of candles, bronze bells, glass, and water embellished an environment that bespoke magic and mystery. Filled with dead people coming to life, kings lost at sea, dreams foretelling the reuniting of loved ones, and strange healing powers, Eusebio's mystical setting made Shakespeare's odd plot plausible.
A late play of the Bard's, the text is a mishmash of styles and a conglomeration of plots and ideas. Eusebio made the story - never easy to stage - clear and moving at almost every unlikely turn. She even added some fun Greek folk-dancing at a time of celebration. She mixed male and female cross-casting with great dexterity.
Corey Tazmania Stieb danced around stage as the puckish narrator and kept the play moving along. George Castillo played several female characters to great comic effect, while still bringing dignity and grace to his male roles. Graceful Carrie Edel provoked tears when reconciling with her long-lost father. The beautiful Aiko Nakasone brought great poise to her role as the exiled daughter of royalty. Joe Ryan dignified the otherwise undistinguished role of Helicanus, King Pericles' faithful servant. Handsome Troy Myers slew the woman in his many romantic roles. Ian Gould, as Pericles, kept the story vibrant. But Carla Briscoe was the standout of the cast. Mastering several difficult roles, she defined a complex character the moment she appeared onstage. Her command of body language made her riveting to watch. Katherine Marie Atkins's choreography was fun and a welcome wisp of air in this odd world.
There were several beautiful moments in this affecting tale. Perhaps the most extraordinary was when Pericles was finally reunited with his daughter, realizing who she is. After the shock of recognition and the emotive catharsis generated, he began to hear what he espoused as the music of the spheres. In the background, a chorus of women began tracing their moistened fingers along the tops of wine glasses to create an eerie wind sound-effect. Pericles dropped to the ground in exhaustion, and in the glow of candlelight the chorus related a dream to him. At this moment, director Eusebio brought all the elements of air, fire, water, and earth together in an exquisite and moving moment. It is scenes like this and the exemplary clarity of staged storytelling that made this a production well worth seeing.
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Copyright 2000 James A. Lopata