Regional Reviews: Phoenix
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