Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Theater Review: A Winter’s Tale in Central Park

Linda Emond, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and Jesse L. Martin
in The Winter’s Tale. Photo credit: Joan Marcus

A Cold, Harsh Tale of Jealousy with a Little Humor on the Side
By Lauren Yarger
Jealousy and grief combine with fabulous sets and some clownish humor to make A Winter’s Tale, one of two Shakepeare plays running in rep in Central Park this summer, an enjoyable night of theater, even if this isn’t one of the bard’s best plays

Ruben Santiago Hudson plays Leontes, king of Sicilia, who is filled with rage when he becomes convinced his wife, Hermoine (a very good Linda Emond) and his longtime friend and King of Bohemia, Polixenes (Jess L. Martin) have had an affair producing Hermoine’s unborn child. He imprisons her, and when she delivers a daughter, her friend, Paulina (Marianne Jean-Baptiste in a captivating performance) takes the baby to Leontes hoping he’ll accept her as his own and forgive Hermoine. Instead, the king orders Pauline’s husband, Antigonous (Geryy Bamman) to remove the girl, named Perdita, and he takes her to Bohemia where he is killed by a bear, in one of Shakespeare’s more well known scenes.

Meanwhile, Hermoine’s young son, Mamillius (Alexander Maier), becomes gravely ill after being separated from his mother and when he dies, Hermoine, in grief, follows him. To compound Laontes’ guilt, the Oracle of Apollo sends word that Hermone and Polixenes were innocent.

Fast forward 16 years and the now grown Perdita (Heather Lind), having been raised as the daughter of the shepherd who found her (Max Wright) falls in love with Bohemia’s son, Florizel (Francois Batiste). The king opposes the marriage. Will true love win? Will everyone end up dead at the end of Act 2, which so often is the case in a Shakepeare tragedy? You’ll have to sit through the three-hour-and-10-minute production to find out, but I will tell you that this one ends a little happier than most.

Much of the fun of the evening comes from the clowns: Jesse Tyler Ferguson as the shepherd’s son and Hamish Linklater as a thief and rogue .

Director Michael Greif does a nice job staging the piece on Mark Wendlend’s impressive set that includes firepots, smoke effects and a glass panel that raises up to allow for additional depth of staging and a thunderstorm behind it. He also uses puppetry by Lake Simons to fly in birds, graze some sheep and depict the bear attack. Tom Kitt’s original music sets the mood, and costumes by Clint Ramos, with some lovely flowing gowns, complete it.

The Winter’s Tale plays as part of the Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park through July 31 at the Delacorte Theatre, Central Park, near 81st Street. Tickets are free and are distributed to those waiting in line at the park or through a virtual line online. Visit for more information.

Christians might also like to know:
• Nudity
• Sexual dialogue and movement
• Praying to Apollo
• Dead brought back to life
Note: While I usually applaud parents who bring children to see classical theater, I would suggest that this one, particularly with it's three-plus hour run time that starts at 8 pm, is probably not the best outing for little ones who will need to remain quiet while being up way past their bed time.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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