Emotion comes through in production of 'The Winter's Tale': Theater review
During intermission of "The Winter's Tale" at the College of St. Scholastica on Friday, a woman seated stage left told the younger woman next to her, evidently a student and her hostess, "This was definitely worth the long drive, worth the drive ...
During intermission of "The Winter's Tale" at the College of St. Scholastica on Friday, a woman seated stage left told the younger woman next to her, evidently a student and her hostess, "This was definitely worth the long drive, worth the drive in deer-hunting opener traffic."
And she hadn't even yet seen the second half of this "tragicomic Romance" that is one of William Shakespeare's last plays.
The first part of the play, Acts One through Three, is darkly disturbing and at times bitterly tragic. Acts Four and Five are the realm of the clown and the charming rascal, with the action bordering on the slapstick.
It is the story of Leontes, King of Sicilia, who becomes convinced that his queen, Hermione, is having an affair with his visiting boyhood friend, Polixenes, King of Bohemia. Despite all his counselors' assurances that his jealousy is groundless and the declaration of the Oracle of Delphi that Hermione is innocent, he banishes her. Their son dies of grief and when Hermione delivers a baby girl in her exile that is brought to Leontes, he declares the child the bastard of Polixenes and orders that she be abandoned outside his kingdom.
As Act Three ends, the baby is discovered by a Bohemian shepherd, who decides to raise her as his own.
Act Four opens 16 years later, with the baby girl now the young woman Perdita, who has caught the eye of Polixenes's son, Florizel.
It's not one of Shakespeare's more credible plots, but "The Winter's Tale" is generally meant to be savored for the opportunities it affords actors to exercise their range and for the especially rich language of the script.
The play demands that actors portray a wide range of moods among numerous characters, and the 14 members of Director Tammy Ostrander's cast do a credible job.
Much of the responsibility falls upon Luke Moravec, who is convincing as the virtually paranoid Leontes who is jolted back to sanity by the consequences of his irrational decisions. He's best in the less exercised scenes, mostly because the whimsical acoustics of Scholastica's Little Theatre swallow up big chunks of his lines when the character is at his most florid.
That curse, though, doesn't fall on Moravec alone. The generally impressed woman at stage left, who evidently had recently read "The Winter's Tale," commented to her hostess that it was unfortunate that so many lines were hard to understand because, she said, it's such wonderful language.
As Hermione, Shannon Smith was generally spared. Her rendition of the queen's heartbreaking statement during her trial for treason was bell-clear both emotionally and auditorily.
Ostrander's attempt to integrate audience and action more tightly than is customary involved a performance space layout that might well have contributed to the problem. On the other hand, her decision and her employment of Kevin Seime's multilevel set imparted an extra measure of immediacy and intimacy to the production.
Paul Brissett is a Duluth writer and amateur actor who has appeared in numerous community theater productions and has served on the board of the Duluth Playhouse.