PERICLES, Prince of Tyre: Drama by William Shakespeare. Conceived by Mark Wing-Davey with Jim Calder. Director Mark Wing-Davey. Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94704. (510) 647-2949 – www.berkeleyrep.org.
April 12 – May 26, 2013
PERICLES, Prince of Tyre is a theatrical event at Berkeley Rep
How does a theatrical company change a Shakespearean drama that involves incest, murder, three shipwrecks, revival of a dead queen and a virgin forced into a brothel into a comedy? First hire Mark Wing-Davey as the director, surround him with an excellent production staff, compose original music for a live on stage trio and assemble a talented ensemble cast of eight to play all the roles originally written for 17 characters and a narrator/chorus named Gower (Anita Carey, the directors partner in life) chanting:
To sing a song that old was sung,
From ashes ancient Gower is come;
Assuming man’s infirmities,
To glad your ear, and please your eyes.
Even before the formal play begins “to glad your ear, and please your eyes”, the cast has been mingling with the audience and the leader of the musicians warms up the audience by composing a song using plebian words and eventually ending with a frere jacques type three part melody. It works.
Antiocles, King of Antioch is having an incestuous relationship with his beautiful daughter. To keep her to himself and hide his actions he has created a riddle that every suitor for her hand must solve. By not doing so the suitors lose their heads. The severed heads of the unsuccessful ones are represented as heads of cabbage that fall from rear balcony. Yes humor rears its ugly head(s) and it is only the first scene!
When Pericles is given the riddle, it is written in mirror type and he reads it by reflecting the parchment in a series of mirrors fastened to the daughters dress. Now that is a clever directorial conceit and many more are to come. Alas he can solve the riddle and dare not do so and begs 40 days to study it. Pericles knowing his fate flees and his picaresque sea voyage journey begins. On his first stop he fills the coffers of the famine ridden people of Tarus thus making a friend of Dionyza, the governor. That will hold him in good stead later on. A sub-title should be “virtue rewarded.”
His first encounter with a storm at sea tosses him to the waves and rescued by two fisherman taking him to Pentapolis where a jousting contest is being held to win the hand of the beautiful Thaisa, daughter of King Simonides. He wins of course in a hilarious jousting contest acted out behind a black screen. The marriage night consummation on a platform bed mounted on heavy duty springs would make a virgin blush.
Off he goes with his pregnant bride on another sea voyage and the production crew mounts a storm to end all storm scenes with a fire hose spraying the stage with copious amounts of water while the ship (that consists of the aforementioned spring mounted platform) is tossed and buffeted while Queen Thaisa gives birth to a girl to be named Marina, of course since she was born at sea. To appease the gods Thaisa gets placed in a casket and dumped overboard but when the casket washes ashore she is brought back to life with magic herbs and she goes off to mourn in the Temple of Diana.
Time passes, Marina grows into a ravishing beauty, is about to be killed by her jealous guardians, is ‘rescued” by pirates, sold to a brothel but maintains her virginity by her virtuous nature. Eventually she is reunited with Pericles and they both find Thaisa in the Temple of Diana and all ends well.
The entire production has twists and turns of lights, sound, music that will keep you entertained. But the members of the cast are a marvel as they slip into character after character without a hitch. David Barlow as Pericles carries most of burden with a perfect demeanor of virtue personified even as he suffers the tribulations of Job. James Carpenter’s clear senatorial Shakespearian voice and commanding stage presence makes him perfect on to play the kingly roles. Jessica Kitchens’ regal/bawdy bearing almost matches Carpenter line for line and Annapurna Sriram exudes virtuous virginity even when she is hoisted high above the stage in a cargo net.
This is a not to be missed theatrical event that could become a model for further Shakespearean staging. Note: Mark Wing-Davey may not be taking liberties with Shakespeare since there is question whether Shakespeare wrote this play or only part of it. A non-entity named George Wilkins may be the true author.)
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com