Review: The Perilous Adventures of Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Pericles ANW

Thomas Tofel and Jules Willcox. Photos by Craig Schwartz

Cue the traveling music and pack up the suitcases, Prince Pericles is going on an adventure. But as Shakespeare’s protagonist will soon find out, this grand tour is not destined to be full of thrilling adventures. In the search for a bride he discovers unspeakable horror, flees for his life, and is subject to two disastrous storms at sea. Then, his wife dies in childbirth, he leaves his daughter to be raised by a woman who grows to hate her, and is told on his return that she too has died.

Welcome to the first of Shakespeare’s late romances, bridging the gap between his epic tragedies like King Lear and Macbeth, and forthcoming romances, Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale. Fantasy begins to take over the storytelling and suddenly Pericles turns into an experiment that is much more episodic in nature, less cohesive in tone, and quite a departure from what the author had explored earlier. 

In actuality, it is very likely that Acts I and II were written by someone other than Shakespeare. George Wilkins may be the most likely candidate however scholars have not come to any agreement on the subject. Shakespeare’s hand is evident in the later Acts, especially the moving denouement which finds father and daughter – and eventually husband and wife – miraculously reunited. Call it coincidence or call it the grace of the gods…it is a beautiful scene staged by director Julia Rodriguez-Elliot that places the final piece of this wandering journey in order.

Pericles ANW Gower

Deborah Strang and Chorus

Deborah Strang (Gower) is the chorus of one who keeps track of the story and its changing characters. She is supported by an ensemble of mute actors who perform dumb shows in pantomime to accompany her narration. Strang is a charmingly mischievous guide with crisp diction and a sublime command of the text; the ensemble, an athletically proficient group that uses its physical dexterity in striking ways to enhance the mood.

Likewise her fellow actors bring a strong sense of character to their roles, many of whom play more than one. Thomas Tofel triumphs as the evil Antiochus, whose incestuous relationship with his daughter (Jules Willcox) is the catalyst for Pericles’ (Jason Dechert) flight. Rodriguez-Elliot directs a captivating transition from younger to older Pericles as time passes in the play and Tofel takes over the role from Dechert. He has the opportunity to play two vastly different kinds of father and does so with a master’s touch.

Willcox goes from sad porcelain doll (as the kept daughter), to vivacious bride (Thaisa), to poised and determined leading lady (Marina) beautifully. And what a delight to hear Michael Stone Forrest’s rich baritone voice raised in song. Robert Oriol provides the original music and sound design that weaves though the production like a cinematic sound reel.

Pericles ANW Green

Jules Willcox and Michael Stone Forrest

Angela Balogh Calin has created an astonishing array of costumes full of bold and bright splashes of color and luxurious detail. They pop with dramatic flair against Jeanine A. Ringer’s whitewashed wall of doors and drawers. Ringer’s set design extends the playing area out into the audience and adds unexpected visuals lit with dramatic precision by lighting designer Ken Booth.

Pericles is rarely performed in Los Angeles and A Noise Within tackles it with an abundance of riches in tow. A few pacing issues aside, this is an opportunity to see it done with breathtaking style by a cast and creative team who always deliver the goods. You won’t be disappointed.

Ellen Dostal
Shakespeare in LA

PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE
Sept. 7 – Nov. 24, 2013
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
Tickets: (626) 356-3100 or www.anoisewithin.org

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Karen Zumsteg
    Sep 21, 2013 @ 17:40:47

    You captured the essence of the production beautifully, Ellen. Great review.

    Like

    Reply

  2. shakes2011
    Sep 21, 2013 @ 19:06:59

    Thanks Karen. I’m so happy to have seen it since the opportunity to do so doesn’t come along very often for this play.

    Like

    Reply

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