Shakespeare is Bustin' Out All Over

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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Every summer, the Southland is studded with productions of the Bard’s 37 plays. They can be seen from Griffith Park’s Independent Theatre Company to Shakespeare by the Sea’s tour from Pasadena, down to Mission Viejo and from Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon to the Shakespeare Festival in Santa Clarita. I guarantee you, you will have a great time watching some great performances, from seasoned veterans to budding artists. In my book, this summer you will not find a better, more intelligent production than Shakespeare By The Sea’s The Winter’s Tale.

Wisely, director Stephanie Coltrin recasts this difficult-to-produce play as a set of interconnected one-acts, with no attempt to bridge the gap between tragedy and romance that mark the two parts. Act One finds Leontes (Patrick Vest) suddenly consumed with jealousy over the friendship of his pregnant wife, Hermione (Leah Dalrymple), and his best friend, the Bohemian Polixenes (B.J. Allman). He orders her to prison, then rejects his child when she is born. Almost immediately, however, he feels remorse for his actions, and vows to spend the rest of his life in penance.

Act Two, by contrast, introduces the now grown daughter, Perdita (Allie Pratt), who was saved by faithful Paulina (Bridgid M. Rose) and whisked away to be raised in Bohemia by a lowly shepherd (Tom Killam) and his son (Jonathan Fisher). Polixenes’ son Florizel (Jonathan Cates) falls in love with Perdita at the Behemian fair, but his father tries to separate the star-crossed lovers. Thank heavens she is of high birth! Otherwise the match, which ultimately prevails, would never have been sanctioned by Elizabethan audiences.

Aaron Jackson’s portable series of platforms festooned with floral cut-outs fit perfectly into Point Formin Park’s bandshell and allows the director to keep the action moving nimbly. Jeffrey Shoenberg’s wonderful costumes move the play from medieval times to the late 19th century, while the atmospheric, magical music reminiscent of the Harry Potter theme (and designed by Cintha Nava-Palmer) prepares us to see the play as the fairy tale it is.

For one more week, amble down to the magnificent Point Fermin Park; come early and partake of their boxed dinner (call ahead for sandwich choices), and sit back on a blanket or on the band shell benches and watch the play unfold. Or look online for Shakespeare by the Sea to appear in a city park near you.

The Winter’s Tale, with The Merry Wives of Windsor, alternates in parks throughout the South Bay and Pasadena this summer. Entrance is free. Consult the website: www.shakespearebythesea.org  for performances in your area.  Or call (310) 217-7596 for more information.