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Pericles

a Play
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 2306

SHOWING : June 28, 2007 - July 27, 2007

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Get ready for an adventure-filled odyssey of the spirit as Pericles, the young Prince of Tyre, sets sail in this soul-stirring Shakespearean fairy tale. Filled with love and loss, shipwrecks and pirates, Pericles is one man's magical journey to rediscover lost lives and lost loves.


CAST & CREW LIST
Cast Carolyn Cook
Dionyza Carolyn Cook
Marina Amelia Hammond
Gower/Thaisa Park Krausen
Lysimachus Daniel May
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

By the Numbers
by Dedalus
Monday, July 16, 2007
3.0
Did you ever get one of those Paint-by-Numbers kits, only to discover that you didn’t get all the colors? That’s the feeling I had seeing “Pericles” at Georgia Shakespeare. I could picture Old William sitting with his quill, his partner (whoever it may have been for this one – there is much debate), and his checklist of plot points, ticking them off one-by-one, but leaving the most important colors “to be added later.”

Since this is a rarely-performed piece, let me summarize. Pericles is the young Prince of Tyre. He goes off to find a wife, since leaving an heir is his “most important duty.” He soon becomes a magnet for misfortune, bouncing from kingdom to kingdom, finding a virtuous wife, siring a virtuous daughter, and losing them both to yet more misfortune. He goes home so the plot has enough time to let his daughter grow, then finds his loved ones for a sorta kinda happy ending. That’s pretty much it. Pericles has to be one of the most passive, inactive heroes in the entire Shakespeare canon. He loses everything through contrivances of bad luck, then gets everything back through contrivances of good luck. Here there is no mid-plot Prospero epiphany leading to forgiveness, no Leonato transformation that leads to reunion, not even a loyal retainer eaten by a bear. Pericles and his loved ones are essentially the same at the end as they were at the beginning, merely older.

Other plot points add to this perception of contrivance – a riddle in the first scene is embarrassingly easy to solve, a queen flips from good to evil so Pericles’ daughter can have her share of bad luck, a king sponsors a contest for his daughter’s hand comprised of shallow tests of strength and skill (but none of virtue, intelligence, or character), an evil king and his daughter (who do things fathers and daughters should not do together) are consumed by a Deus-ex-Machina fiery judgment, a supposed noble prince frequents brothels, a group of comic-relief fishermen comment on politics and kings without going any deeper than the AJC Vent Page, etc etc etc – you get the point. It’s easy to see why there is some authorship debate on this – it is the plotting of a young writer who obviously “studied nature’s journeymen” rather than real live people. Coming at the end of Shakespeare’s career, one can only assume that (a) the old boy was losing it and someone else really wrote the piece, or (b) all extant versions were corrupted by bad copiers.

That being said, my edition of this play cites numerous productions and makes the point that it works much better on stage than on the page. This is especially so with Georgia Shakespeare’s staging. The production as a whole is clever, colorful, and creative, and includes one of the most spectacular tempests you’re likely to see (very well staged using low-tech 19th-century stagecraft). Company stalwarts play multiple roles with energy and panache, and musician Klimchak underscores it all with a driving score that helps us gloss over the scripts shortcomings. Let me discuss three elements of the production, one good, one not-so-good, and one I’m a bit ambivalent about.

First the good. The play is structured as if it were a story told by “Ancient Gower,” an old man from a “different era” telling us an old-fashioned tale and calling on our imaginations to help him along. Here, Gower is transformed into a young woman, brilliantly played by Park Krausen. By the end, we realize she is actually an integral part of the story, giving her a vested interest in telling us this tale because it affected her personally. I found her to be the highlight of the production, and her narrations not only let us know where Pericles is, how much time has passed, and what’s going on around him, it also makes us care (against our better judgment) what’s going to happen next. She is the chief reason to see this show – she’s a joy to watch and transforms the meandering story into a compelling piece of theatre.

Unfortunately, she is not helped by Joe Knezevich’s Pericles. Mr. Knezevich is a competent actor who previously has shown he knows his way around an Elizabethan monologue. Here, however, I found him to be whiny and monotonous – too many of his deliveries have a nasal droning quality that does nothing to make this character compelling. Because Pericles is such a passive character, he needs a firebrand at the helm to make us care for him, to make us believe the other characters when they praise him. This is especially evident in the final reunion scenes – here, what should move us, merely drags through too many watch-checking moments. At the 6/29 performance, however, there were a couple compelling moments that do work. This gives me confidence that Mr. Knezevich will find the necessary spark as the run continues.

Finally, for the ambivalent. Director Richard Garner has chosen to make each country in Pericles’s travels have its distinctive look and design, each an analog of a culture and time we recognize. Pericles’ Tyre is very “Arabian Nights” Middle Eastern, Pentapolis is like a Scottish Clanfest from the 18th Century, Ephesus is a Pre-Perry Orient, and (wait for it) Mytilene is 1970’s urban London. I like that this distinguises the countries and helps us know where we are. I like how it gives the Costume Designer (Sydney Roberts in top form) free rein to let loose and wow us with different fabrics and colors and styles. But I’m not as sure I like how it fits together – since what we’re seeing is essentially Young (female) Gower’s recollections and interpretations, it jars that she would show us stuff that coincides with such precise locales and times – granted her imagination of some places she never saw would be informed by fiction and stories and what-not, it’s a bit of a stretch that her “visions” so uncannily resemble actual cultures outside her experience. Typical of this is the Prince in the “Wedding Test” sequence who is dressed like a cowboy because he is “from the West.” This is one of those “clever but not smart” ideas – it gives us a quick laugh, but then it just looks out of place. I like how the concept of place makes the show look and how it specifies locale. I not-so-much like how it is too specific about times and places that don’t really fit that well together.

So, what we have here is a Paint-by-Numbers play that is missing the main colors of a compelling and active central character, a connection with real people beyond good/evil broad brushstrokes, and a plot that is driven by character rather than a playwright-puppeteer. But it’s done with style and energy by an imaginative production that doesn’t quite gel as much as it should. And it does have that tempest scene that’ll stick with you for days.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



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