Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Here goes the plot: prince Pericles (played by the impressive Dameion Brown), having recently become the ruler of Tyre due to his father's death, attempts to win the hand of a princess by solving an impossible riddle; but upon realizing that she's involved in an incestuous relationship with her father Antiochus (Nick Mandracchia), he skips town. Back home, Pericles admits to his loyal major-domo Helicanus (Rod Gnapp) that he fears retribution from Antiochus. Solution: leave the country in the capable hands of Helicanus while he sails the world for 12 months.
This sets up a series of events, including helping out the sad people of Tarsus, then a shipwreck that lands Pericles alone on a foreign isle where he marries Thaisa (Kathryn Smith-McGlynn). Thaisa gets pregnant, they board ship to continue his journey, she dies in childbirth during another sea storm, the baby is named Marina for her watery birth, and she is left in Tarsus to be raised by the king and queen there because, well, they owe him ... And that's about all I can tell you without giving away too much.
This production does an excellent job of making the plot shifts and complexities clear, so the audience can follow the action and appreciate all that Pericles and his family must endure. But in true melodrama fashion, good ultimately conquers evil, and the last few scenes are both touching and satisfying.
Brown as Pericles is a force to be reckoned with, showing the strength of character that must enable his survival of so much adversity. He transitions well from the young, brash prince to the mature and respected leader, sobered by his hardships.
Brown is ably supported by a wonderful ensemble. Gnapp stands out as the faithful Helicanus and as the rowdy, hilarious Boult. Jackson Currier shines as Lysimachus, among others, and Mandracchia shows off his Shakespearean skills in several roles. Richard Pallaziol has fun with nasty Cleon, along with Cathleen Riddley who plays his even nastier wife Dionyza. Riddley also excels as Queen Simonides and a merciful goddess Diana.
Smith-McGlynn is terrific in her very different roles, as is Elena Wright, barely recognizable in her differing characters. Eliza Boivin is a superb Marinasweet and pure, with an angelic voice, but also tough and smart. Her scene with Pericles is quite lovely. Narrator Gower, played by Diane Wasnak, prances and mimes while explaining it all, and provides some comic relief.
The overall level of energy and skills of the entire cast adds greatly to the show's enjoyment.
According to director Lesley Schisgall Currier, there are nearly 100 costumes in the show, and as designed and deployed by designer Merissa Mann, they add immensely to the visual character of the production, and aid audience in quickly adapting to new locations and roles. Mann also supplies some comic touches of her own that are well played. Scenic design by Jackson Currier allows for the many different locations with minimal set pieces and props, which helps to keep the action lively and speeding along.
Pericles is not often staged, due to its particular challenges. This is as good a production of it as this reviewer has seen, with lots of talent on stage and a true understanding of the play itself. Kudos to Currier and her team for a thoroughly delightful show.
Pericles, through August 5, 2018, by Marin Shakespeare Company at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University, San Rafael CA. Tickets $10.00-$38.00 can be purchased online at www.marinshakespeare.org or by phone at 415-499-4488.