Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

The Winter's Tale
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's review of Sweet Smell of Success


Gary Glasgow, Michael James Reed,
Charles Pasternak, and Antonio Rodriguez

Photo by J. David Levy
For non-Shakespeare aficionados, this is your chance. If you secretly fear that your English major friends are going to drag the conversation at a party to Hamlet or King Lear or The Tempest, you can at least keep your hand in the game with the relatively obscure knowledge you can gain of this lesser-known work, which is in fact a lot of fun.

At the performance I attended of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' The Winter's Tale, a gentleman nearby joked, "I don't understand a word of it, but I'm enjoying it!" The clarity of the diction and direction makes up for the odd bits of 400-year old verbiage that don't quite translate into the common parlance of 2017. Most of the time you don't even need the words, though they really do roll off the actors' tongues. But the most startling thing about The Winter's Tale is neither the general clarity nor the fact that the first act quickly turns into a mad witch-hunt, as Leontes, the King of Sicilia (excellent Charles Pasternak) dives down a rabbit-hole of suspicion against his wife Hermione (the adorable Cherie Corinne Rice), whom he accuses of adultery.

What's so startling is the whole second half, after intermission: it's a sunny comedy—removed from glowering Sicilia, to rustic Bohemia, along with its King Polixenes (dashing Chauncy Thomas), who's abruptly banished from Sicilia. A baby has been born to Leontes and Hermione back in that first half, coming exactly nine months after Polixenes first arrived there, thus helping provoke Leontes' suspicions. After that, Polixenes must flee, and Queen Hermione is reported to have passed on, apparently having been guilted to death. But right before that, she's given birth to a baby girl who must be spirited away to save her own tiny life. And—flash forward—it's 16 years later and we, too, arrive in Bohemia (now known as the Czech Republic).

Intermission!

The royal baby has grown into a simple shepherd's daughter (lovely Cassia Thompson as Perdita), and Polixenes himself has a teenaged son (handsome Pete Winfrey), who now spends all his time out in the countryside with the sheep (and with Perdita). Whit Reichert and Antonio L. Rodriguez are purely delightful as her loving father and brother. And one way and another, things are gently worked out—to a romantic's delight.

Great work from Rachel Christopher as Paulina, pleading the accused queen's case so firmly and beautifully, and (as always) from Gary Glasgow, as a comical pickpocket and song-and-dance man. Two of our best-known regional stars, Anderson Matthews and Jerry Vogel, are also on hand to lend gravitas. And frankly, Mr. Matthews could recite the whole script by himself, alone in the spotlight. With his sweet, velvety voice, nobody would ever think of sneaking away.

But taken as a whole, it's a crazy excuse for a story: cruel jealousy before intermission, and a put-put golf course of silliness afterward. Maybe someday a grandly ridiculous actor like Rowan Atkinson will take on the role of Leontes, making him a comically jealous king. Then it will all make sense, Shakespeare's first three acts suddenly matching up with his act four and five's lighthearted tone at last. And that's when The Winter's Tale may become known as Shakespeare's great, unrecognized "French farce": coming in 1623, one year after the birth of Molière.

Through June 24, 2017, at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. For more information visit www.sfstl.com.

Cast (in order of appearance)
Leontes, King of Sicilia: Charles Pasternak*
Hermione, Queen of Sicilia: Cherie Corinne Rice*
Polixenes, King of Bohemia: Chauncy Thomas*
Camillo, a Sicilian courtier: Anderson Matthews*
Paulina, gentlewoman to Hermione: Rachel Christopher*
Mamillius, son of Leontes & Hermione: Carter Eiseman
Emilia, maid to Hermione/Dorcas, a shepherdess: Sigrid Wise
Elinor/Mopsa, a shepherdess: Delaney Marie Piggins
Antigonus, husband of Paulina: Michael James Reed*
Shepherd/Jailer: Whit Reichert*
Cleomenes, a Sicilian ambassador: Jerry Vogel*
Dion, a Sicilian ambassador: Andrew Oppman
Shepherd's Son: Antonio L. Rodriguez*
Autolycus, a rogue/Mariner/Lord: Gary Glasgow*
Perdita, daughter of Leontes & Hermione: Cassia Thompson
Florizel (also called Doricles), son of Polixenes/Court Officer: Pete Winfrey
Country Servant/Sicilian Gentleman: Myke Andrews

Artistic Staff
Director: Bruce Longworth
Stage Manager: Emilee Buchheit*
Assistant Stage Manager: Aaron Orion Baker*
Music Director: Matt Pace
Original Score: Matt Pace & Brien Seyle
Scenic Design: Scott C. Neale**
Costume Design: Dottie Marshall Englis**
Lighting Design: John Wylie
Sound Design: Rusty Wandall
Voice & Text Coach: Suzanne Mills*

* Denotes member, Actors Equity Association

** Denotes member, USA Local 829, the professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople


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