The Winter's Tale
by William Shakespeare
Ruth N. Halls Theatre, Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center
February 25, 26, March 2-6, 2011
Director Jonathan Courtemanche‘s version of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, at the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, makes a neatly produced, fast-paced evening. The play comes neatly wrapped in two separate halves, which join together in the dramatic finale.
The first, dark act takes place in the court of Bohemia. King Leontes (played thoughtfully introverted by Shewan Howard) and his boyhood friend, the Sicilian King Polixines (in a well-rounded portrayal by Timothy Pyles) dally with Leontes’ wife Hermione (regal and resolute Kristl Densley). For the most petty and superficial of reasons, Leontes decides that Polixines is his rival, his wife an adulterer, and his children—both current and pending—bastards.
Only the defection of his most trusted confidant, Camillo (Kelly Patrick Lusk) and the fiery noblewoman Paulina (Abby Rowald) prevents Leontes from poisoning his former friend and murdering his newborn daughter. He persists in his accusations, despite solid defense of the queen’s virtue by all of the other characters. Only when an oracle comes, proclaiming that everything he suspects in untrue, does he relent.
The play may have been written five hundred years ago, but in a time when various rulers-for-life are doing irreparable and unchecked damage to their countries, it remains resonant.
The second, sunny act takes place in the Sicilian countryside. Principal among the rural folk are the comical rivals Mopsa (Kaitlyn Esther) and Dorcas (Katherine Duffy). Neal Utterback plays the very funny rogue, Autolycus.
A couple of comical shepherds—laid-back Alex McCausland and engagingly energetic David Coleman—have found and raised Leontes’ abandoned daughter, Perdita (Molly Casey). Conveniently enough, she has fallen for King Polixines’ son Florizel (Jared Miller), though she doesn’t know he’s really a prince, and he doesn’t know that she’s a princess. When he discovers their secret trysts, King Polixenes flies into a rage that mimics the baseless madness of King Leontes in the first act. Once again, the counsel of Camillo is a key to sanity.
In the finale, Queen Hermione—who has been thought dead—is reunited with the repentant King Leontes; the young lovers are joined; faithful Camillo and fiery Paulina have their success; and the roguish Autolycus takes the last, amused exit.
Steam Punk Shakespeare
The setting for The Winter’s Tale is ‘steam-punk,’ a style based on the premise that electric energy was never invented, so the Victorian era prevailed through the present day. Katie McDermott’s scenic design ably supports the vision. Composer David Roberts musical selections do a nice job of setting the scenes, though they are less successful as incidental music. Lydia Dawson’s varied, complex and imaginative costumes for the extensive cast of twenty-three actors—some with three changes—are a delight.
As a final note, though the principals have been mentioned here, this Winter’s Tale is a production that draws its strength from individual small parts and ensemble scenes as much as from its main performances. The shepherds and shepherdesses, lords and ladies, the mariner and guard who make appearances throughout the show add greatly to the play’s success.
At the theater for you, I’m George Walker.