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 http://www.publictheater.org/content/view/126/219/ for more information.
Christians might also like to know:
• 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.