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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Pericles

Or The Games of Gods, now color coordinated for your connivence.


Two words of advice before seeing the the Aaron Snook’s adaptation of Pericles:


Come prepared to move. Snook has tailored the production to the promenade style of theater so the audience is obliged to shift position, doge actors, and mind the occasional swinging lamp in order to follow the action as it bounces across the confines of Fisk 115, across ancient kingdoms, thousands of miles, and some thirty years.


Read a synopsis before hand. Ideally Shakespeare plays should keep you on tether hooks till the final resolution (even if they tell you Romeo and Juliet are doomed you have to believe there’s a chance for them) but Pericles is a different fish entirely. To name the play’s succinctly THERES TOO MUCH IN IT! It’s as if SHakespeare and who ever he cowrote it with got soused and crammed their work with every convention of comedy and tragedy from the literary tradition. Pirates! Shipwrecks! Tourneys! Whores! Heavily Visitations! Sorcerers! Assassination Plots! Match making Plots! Inscest Plots! No matter how carefully Snook and his ensemble have plotted out the Mediterranean (yes it really is color coordinated for your connivence) before and during the show, you will have to pause and say “wait, why are they wearing yellow? What country is this?” So come prepared. Forewarned is forearmed.


The plot roughly follows the tale of Pericles (Olin) a noble prince of Tyre (thats an ancient Greek kingdom) who sets out to win a wife for himself. He is aided, and sometimes tormented, by a mysterious chorus/minister of fate named Gower (Wilhelm) who chronicles his and his families misfortunes on the high seas as they contend with assassins (Seldin), Kings with secrets (Johnson), wise Fishermen (Weinstine) and bordello proprietors (Low) amongst countless other characters, noble and base.


In a world of sheets and lanterns, Snook has embraced the theatrical tradition of doing very much with very little. While some effects, such as the garbage lid thunder makers fall short of their mark, others, such as the coffin washed onto a strange shore, are clear, effective and suitable. Snook has seen fit to add small bridge texts to Shakespeare's work, a habit normally scorned. As he has chosen such source materials as Monty Python and Muppet Treasure Island for these bridges, I cannot help but endorse their addition.


Sadly, in the midst of all this theatrical magic, the words themselves are not given the care that they deserve. It was a great shame to see so many worthies (and they are worthies, each and everyone) bounce through the text without taking time to chew those mellifluous words or spin those perfect phrases. The lines are clear enough and the characters are well defined through them, but there was no sustained sense of urgency. The ball is picked up in the last quarter of the show, when grief and sorrow are relieved, and there are punctuations shakespearian oomph, as Johnson’s cries of woe to a withering land or Weinstine’s proposition to wheedle her way out of a tricky situation. Yet I found myself thinking “Ah hello? Why are you taking this so calmly? You’ve just found him an offense to heaven/you’ve just met the love of your life/there’s a deadman lying on your beach!” I know the they can do better. The fire is there in all of them, it just remains shut behind the furnace door, heating the story but not illuminating it. During the run proper I have no doubt that each will step forward, throw open the furnace doors and flood the space with light.

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