Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale Provides Double the Fun

Photo by Jenny Graham

One of Shakespeare’s later plays, The Winter’s Tale has always been considered a problem play because it has two distinct but related plots.  But Antaeus Theatre’s new production solves this problem, if it can be called that, brilliantly.  Under the direction of Elizabeth Swain, the action moves seamlessly from psychological portrait of a tyrant to rollicking pastoral comedy and back again.

Portrayed as a Napoleonic figure, Leontes, king of Sicilia (Adam J. Smith) sees betrayal behind every smile.  When his friend, Polixenes, the king of Behemia arrives, his friendship with Leontes’ wife, Hermione (Kacy Hamilton), is immediately suspect, resulting in the condemnation of the queen and banishment of Polixenes.

That might be a tragic ending in itself, but Shakespeare invites us to wait patiently while “Time” (Sabrina J. Liu) progresses the play 16 years and far away to a shepherd’s home (Paul Eiding), where Queen Hermione’s babe has been spirited away, only to be raised, unaware of her royal birth, as a shepherd’s daughter. The comedy begins with her ridiculous “brother,” the buffoonish Conlan Wedwith, and continues with joyful dances (brilliantly choreographed by Annie Yee), thus filling the draped stage with joyful color.

Director Swain takes full advantage of her few cast members; doubling and sometimes tripling their roles to keep the cascade of characterizations flowing, and mixing genders and ethnicities in a way that spotlights the characterizations over visual markers. The veteran actors, among them Geoffrey Wade as Camillo and Ann Noble as Paulina, are notable.  Kaci Hamilton brings perfect statuesque grace to her role as Hermione.  

The draped stage, designed by  Frederica Nascimento, is devoid of set pieces, but the kaleidoscope of Empire style dressings of the first act, and the rustic dress of the second act, provide more than enough spectacle.  Shakespeare has provided the fun, but Elizabeth Swain has united the desperate elements to provide an roller-coaster of love, jealousy, loss and love again that audiences will savor.The Winter’s Tale continues most Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays through March 11, at Antaeus Theatre, 110 East Broadway, Glendale 91205; For reservations, phone (818) 506-1983 or online at