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Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Pericles: Prince of Tyre
Southwest Shakespeare Company
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Red Velvet Cake War, Young Frankenstein and Frankenstein


Joshua Murphy, Jesse James Kamps (center) and Cast
Photo by Laura Durant
From Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth to A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare is known for both his incredible tragedies as well as his hilarious comedies. Yet he also wrote a few epic fantasy adventures which seem to not get produced as often as his other more well-known titles. While his Pericles: Prince of Tyre rambles a bit and has a laundry list of assorted characters and situations (two shipwrecks, riddles, incest and even a gang of kidnapping pirates), with an incredibly game cast and inspired direction, Southwest Shakespeare Company's production proves to be one fun and very entertaining romp.

The plot begins when Pericles is asked to solve a riddle to win the hand of the daughter of King Antiochus. If he guesses incorrectly, he will die. When Pericles realizes the answer is that the King is sleeping with his daughter, he determines that he will be killed whether he states the answer or not. So, the only thing he can do is flee. Over the next two hours the story follows Pericles' journey as he travels around the Mediterranean, suffers through shipwrecks and duels, meets and marries, has a child and then loses everything, yet keeps going in hopes of finding his family again.

First, let me be clear that the plot is all over the place, is slightly convoluted, a bit confusing, and takes a short while for all of the pieces to come together. It also features multiple locations and characters, and some truly odd, yet comical situations. Some scholars believe the play isn't entirely by Shakespeare's hand, thinking that he only wrote about half of the piece. Yet it does have some similarities with The Winter's Tale and also has some resemblance to the convoluted and strangely plotted Cymbeline, both of which were written after Pericles. It's also full of witty and rich dialogue, and an abundance of colorful characters which are similar in style and tone to many of Shakespeare's comedies.

This production is running in repertory with Quinn Mattfeld's new adaptation of Frankenstein. Mattfeld takes the director's reins for Pericles and he delivers an inspired production full of adventure, romance, drama and comedy. He uses bits of music, which add to the story but never go on too long to get in the way of the plot, and doesn't let the absurd moments in the script get out of hand, but he also has fun with the comic ones; his staging of the fight Pericles enters to win the hand of the daughter of King Simonides is comic genius. Keath Hall's fight choreography is superb.

The entire 13-person cast expertly play a vast number of characters with reckless abandonment. Josh Murphy infuses the role of Pericles with passion, pain and pathos, while Keath Hall serves as the play's playful narrator. Kim Stephenson Smith instills the part of Pericles' wife with honesty and romance, and Melissa Toomey evokes a beautiful sense of goodness and sincerity as Pericles' daughter Marina.

With a more than game cast and direction that embraces the wide-ranging plot while also ensuring that the plight of Pericles and the toll his journey takes are felt in the highs and lows he endures, Southwest Shakespeare's production of Pericles makes for a fun, entertaining, humorous and heartfelt journey.

Pericles: Prince of Tyre, through November 10, 2018, at the Mesa Arts Center, 1 East Main Street, Mesa AZ. Tickets can be purchased at swshakespeare.org or by calling 480-644-6500

Director: Quinn Mattfeld
Scenic Designer: Kristen Peterson
Costume Designer: Jessica Florez
Lighting Designer: Stacey Walston
Sound Designer: Peter Bish
Hair and Make-Up Designer: Mary Townsend
Fight Choreographer: Keath Hall
Stage Manager: Marissa Becket

Cast:
Gower/Simonides: Keath Hall
Pericles: Josh Murphy
Helicanus/Ensemble: Beau Heckman
Thaisa/Ensemble: Kim Stephenson Smith
Marina/Ensemble: Melissa Toomey
2nd Fisherman/Bolt/Ensemble: Seth Scott
Antiochus/1st Fisherman/Pander/Ensemble: Doug Waldo
3rd Fisherman/Bawd/Ensemble: Jesse James Kamps
Cerimon/Antiochus Daughter/Ensemble: Ryan L. Jenkins
Dionyza/Ensemble: Kellyn Masters
Lychorida/Diana/Ensemble: Bonnie Beus Romney
Philemon/Ensemble: Bethany Baca
Lysimachus/Cleon/Ensemble: Dalton Davis


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