Saturday, September 17, 2016

"The Winter's Tale" - an autumn delight

Jasmine Jean Sim and Rudy Roushdi in The Winter's Tale (John Ulman)

The Winter's Tale
Seattle Shakespeare Company
(at Seattle Repertory Theatre)
through October 2, 2016

An energetic and deeply considered production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is now on stage by Seattle Shakespeare Company. Director Sheila Daniels has pulled together a solid cast (as usual - Shakes always has a considerably talented cast on stage) with several actors showing their most adept performance selves.

The Winter's Tale combines aspects of many other Shakespeare plays, and is currently thought of as a later work. If, as some later works display, Shakespeare cribbed from himself, liking aspects of earlier work and replicating them into "new" plays quickly, this makes sense as one that could feel new, but be made of cut-and-paste parts.


The beginning is like Othello: a king is jealous of his queen, through no fault of her own, and goes into a rage, with dire consequences. Here, Darragh Kennan pulls out his considerable stops to show the blisters of jealousy of his best friend Polixenes (stalwart Reginald Andre Jackson), no matter what anyone tells him otherwise. Even the formidable Paulina (the formidable Amy Thone) can't cure him of this disease.

Having sent his baby daughter into the wilderness to be placed outside to be killed or saved by the gods, Leontes still does not believe the Oracle saying his queen is true. Suddenly, his small son dies, which Leontes takes as his punishment for disbelief and realizes the error of his ways. Still, his tortured, mislabeled queen Hermione (maturely and enchantingly performed by Brenda Joyner) also is said to have died. All this smacks of many of the dramatic plays.

After intermission, the entire tone changes. The beguiling ways of MJ Sieber with a ukelele and clowning aspect lighten the mood and with a complete change of costuming (by Kelly McDonald), we meet the now-16-year-old Perdita, having been saved from death by a shepherd. More clowning from Mark Fullerton and Spencer Hamp keep us laughing.

This shift is not an easy one to accomplish if the dramatic activities are kept true and dark, but Daniels manages the shift easily with the help of this cast of veteran Shakespearean actors. Though the death of the son still dampens the levity by the end, the appearance of Hermione by Paulina as a statue come to life brings the play to a satisfying conclusion of happiness. These kinds of suddenly wrapped up happy endings are found in several plays, like Much Ado About Nothing, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Though this is a less-well-known play, it is accessible (maybe more than many) and very well mounted. Do give it a go.

For more information, go to www.seattleshakespeare.org or call 206-733-8222.