Talkin' Broadway HomePast ColumnsAbout the Author

New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Pericles, Prince of Tyre: Danger, Romance and Humor Delight in Arabian Nights Styled
Shakespeare Theatre Production


Jon Barker and Jordan Laroya
Although generally attributed to William Shakespeare, Pericles, Prince of Tyre is adjudged by many scholars to have been written at least in part by another. It is lightly considered and little performed. It is certainly fanciful and episodic, and events are often dire. However, whatever limitations it may have on the page, as directed by Brian B. Crowe as the closing production of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's 2013 season, Pericles is a richly entertaining Arabian Nights fantasy filled to the brim with ear pleasing poetry, an engrossing story, situations and characters about whom we care, adventure, comedy, colorful costumes, evocative music, dance, eye pleasing scenery, and colorful costumes. And until documentary evidence forces me to retreat, I will assume this production is so entertaining because it succeeds in accurately bringing to theatrical life what the Bard had in mind when he set pen to paper.

The episodic plot takes us on sea journeys to the ancient city states of Tyre, Antioch, Tarsus, Pentapolis, Mytilene and Ephesus. These dispersed locales are North Africa, modern day Turkey (3), Lebanon, and the Greek island of Lesbos. Thus, the embellishment of the two longest and most potently theatrical scenes (set in Pentapolis and Mytilene) with colorful Arabian costumes, set decorations and music is as appropriate as it is clever and felicitous. Another felicitous choice of Crowe is to begin the play in the Roman goddess Diana's temple at Ephesus where Diana and a three-woman strong Greek chorus recite the poetic story-setting narration. Throughout the play, the mellifluous, musically blended trio substitutes for Shakespeare's character Gower who is likely modeled after the late poet John Gower who, fictionally, is the storyteller in a preceding, essentially contemporaneous, novel which relates the saga of Pericles. In the text, Diana's only appearance is in a vision to Pericles in the play's penultimate scene, imploring him to go to her temple at Ephesus where this saga ends happily. By including Diana and her temple to the play's opening narration, Crowe provides a framing device which lends resonance to the resolution of Pericles.

This wide-ranging play might be titled The Saga or The Travails of Pericles. While in Antioch to win the hand of Hesperides, King Antiochus' daughter, Pericles discovers that father and daughter are incestuous. Realizing that Antiochus will murder him to protect his secret, Pericles flees home to Tyre. His counselor Helicanus advises Pericles that, because Antiochus is seeking his death (either by war or assassination), Pericles should sail on a far off journey. Bearing food for the famine-stricken Tarsus where he seeks harborage, Pericles is welcomed by Cleon, Tarsus' governor, but, when informed that Antiochus had sent an assassin to Tyre and will likely send another to Tarsus to kill him, Pericles again sets sail.

Tossed about at sea, Pericles, devoid of his possessions, washes up on the shore of Pentapolis where he is rescued by fishermen. Although in poor raiment, Pericles enters the court of its king, Simonides, and enters the jousting tournament where he jousts triumphantly with young lords who are seeking the hand of the king's daughter, Thaisa. She falls deeply in love with Pericles. Despite some misunderstandings, Pericles and Thaisa are wed. Antiochus and her daughter Hesperides are miraculously killed by being struck by fire descended from the sky.

Learning of their deaths and wanting to secure his crown, Pericles, along with the pregnant Thaisa, sails home to Tyre. While again beset by a dangerous storm at sea, Thaisa dies in childbirth and is buried at sea in a coffin. However, the coffin floats to the coast of Ephesus, where a kindly doctor, upon opening the coffin, is able the revive the unconscious but still alive Thaisa. Thaisa thinks that Pericles has been lost at sea and becomes a votress at Diana's temple. Pericles leaves their daughter Marina in Tarsus in the care of Cleon and his wife, Dionyza.

Marina has grown into a sparkling young woman, but Dionyza, jealous of how much Marina outshines Philoten, her own daughter, arranges her murder. However, Marina convinces the servant dispatched to kill her not to do so. He tells Marina to flee, and tells Dionyza that he threw her body into the sea. Marina is captured by pirates and abducted to the island of Mytilene where she is sold to a brothel. Bawd and Pander buy her, expecting to reap a large sum for her virgin favors.


Lindsey Kyler and Quentin McCuiston
There is such richness of detail in this production to this point, including the fanciful Arabian Nights stagings that I mentioned earlier, that more than two hours have quickly and most entertainingly flown by, notwithstanding the episodic and dire nature of the proceedings. Yet somehow, Shakespeare Theatre's Pericles amazingly slips into higher gear at this point. It is the extended depiction of the determination of Marina to retain her virginity. That idea might make some snigger in this day and age, but no one will snigger at the heart, tenacity and rich language employed by Marina as she struggles to elevate herself from the misfortune in which she has been tossed. Although we have already been moved by Marina's goodness and purity as she convinces her would-be assassin to spare her life, William Shakespeare (and I think that you will be convinced that he is the author here), director Brian B. Crowe and Lindsey Kyler, a most extraordinary young actress, completely win over our hearts and minds. Kyler wins our hearts with her ability to make us believe and care about Marina's radiant and buoyant goodness. Simultaneously, Kyler removes all cynicism from our minds with her clear and convincing conveyance of the Bard's s deep and true expression of the honest virtue of a young girl committed to the once traditional values of unwed chastity that have become the object of mockery in the modern, sophisticated twenty-first century. Kyler, whose previous work has largely been in regional theatres and is in her first season with the Shakespeare Theatre, is a true find. Her performance is more than enough reason in and of itself for producers and casting agents to get down to Madison, New Jersey post haste.

Jon Barker is appropriately steady and restrained as Pericles, the buffeted center of the play without whose dogged steadiness the showier performances would have no anchor. Andrew Criss displays vigor and variety in multiple featured roles of rulers (Antiochus and Simonides) and an exploiter (Pandar). John Hickok's unforced Hesperides convinces us of his honest reliability. Corey Tazmania, Meg Kiley Smith and Amaya Murphy as the production's chorus have to convey an extraordinary amount of information which they do with effortless clarity, smooth poetic phrasing, and a spoken harmony of sound that is striking. Clark Scott Carmichael (Cleon), Jordan Laroya (Lysimachus), Kelsey Burke (Hesperides), Maria Tholl (Thaisa), Kristie Dale Sanders (Bawd), Quinton McCuiston (Boult) and Jensen Austria Olaya (Philoten) make sizable contributions in the noted and additional roles. Jacqueline Antaramian is a rousingly villainous Dionyza. However, having the actress strongly depicting a villainess double in the role of Diana is a distracting misstep.

The scenic design of Brian Ruggaber lends size and classicism to the proceedings by employing huge draperies which are so craggy and stable that they appear to be made of stone or ice. Draperies even serve as tall columns which extend down to a large platform. If not for moments when they flutter as cast members move in close proximity to them, one might never notice that they are not rock solid. His set decoration, which includes a hookah and old-fashioned Arabian lamps, is excellent. Jayoung Yoon's colorful and exotic costumes are apt and often spectacular.

In assessing Rick Sordelet's fight direction, invariably the only question is how very good is it. The answer here is extremely so. Sordelet's work also raises the interest level.

Suffice it to add that this entire review is a Valentine to director Brian B. Crowe and STNJ Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte who are presenting audiences with an outstanding theatrical treat this holiday season.

Pericles continues performances (Evenings: Tuesdays through 12/17, Wednesdays through 12/18, Thursdays and Sundays 7:30 PM/ Fridays and Saturdays 8 PM/ Matinees: Saturdays and Sundays 2 PM) through December 29, 2013 at the F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre on the campus of Drew University, 36 Madison Avenue at Lancaster Road, Madison, New Jersey 07940. Box Office: 973-408-5600; online: www.ShakespeareNJ.org.

Pericles by William Shakespeare/ directed by Brian B. Crowe

Cast

THE TEMPLE OF DIANA
Diana………………………………………………………………..Jacqueline Antaramian
Chorus……………………………..Corey Tazmania, Meg Kiley Smith, Amaya Murphy

PEOPLE OF TYRE
Pericles, Prince of Tyre………………………………………………………….Jon Barker
Helicanus, nobleman…………………………………………………………...John Hickok
Lords of Tyre and Sailors……………Aaron Gaines, John Greenbaum, Jeremy Spears

PEOPLE OF ANTIOCH
Antiochus, King of Antioch…………………………………………………….Andrew Criss
Hesperides, his daughter……………………………………………………..Kelsey Burke
Thaliart, servant to Antiochus………………………………………………Jordan Laroya
Guards……………………...Clark Scott Carmichael, John Greenbaum, Jeremy Spears

PEOPLE OF TARSUS
Cleon, Governor of Tarsus…………………………………………Clark Scott Carmichael
Dionyza, his wife…………………………………………………… Jacqueline Antaramian
Philoten, their daughter……………………………………………….Jensen Austria Olaya
Leonine, servant to Dionyza………………………………………………………..Jon Sprik

PEOPLE OF PENTAPOLIS
Simonides, King of Pentapolis………………………………………………...Andrew Criss
Thaisa, his daughter……………………………………………………………....Maria Tholl
Lychordia, her nurse maid……………………………………………..Kristie Dale Sanders
Knights………………..Clark Scott Carmichael, Aaron Gaines, Jordan Laroya, Jon Sprik
Three Fishermen………………………John Hickok, Quentin McCuiston, Jeremy Spears

PEOPLE OF MYTILENE
Lysimachus, Governor of Mytilene…………………………………………....Jordan Laroya
Pandar……………………………………………………………………………..Andrew Criss
Bawd……………………………………………………………………….Kristie Dale Sanders
Boult………………………………………………………………………….Quentin McCuiston
Whores…………….................................Kelsey Burke, Maria Tholl, Jensen Austria Olaya
Gentlemen of Mytilene…………………………………………...John Greenbaum, Jon Sprik

PEOPLE OF EPHESUS
Cerimon, a blind healer………………………………………………………...Corey Tazmania
Votresses……………………….Lindsey Kyler, Jensen Austria Olaya, Kristie Dale Sanders
Servants to Cerimon……………....................Aaron Gaines, Quentin McCuiston, Jon Sprik

PEOPLE OF THE SEA
Marina, daughter to Pericles and Marina……………………………………..…Lindsey Kyler
Pirates……………………………….Clark Scott Carmichael, Aaron Gaines, Jeremy Spears


Photo: Jerry Dalia


Be sure to Check the current schedule for theatre in New Jersey


- Bob Rendell



Terms of Service

[ © 1997 - 2014 www.TalkinBroadway.com, Inc. ]