Friday, May 29, 2015

The Winter’s Tale—Anon It Moves—SE Portland

“A Tale of Two Cities”

This production is by Mr. Shakespeare and adapted and directed for the stage by Caitlin Fisher-Draeger (Founding member and Co-Artistic Director of this company).  It plays at the Shaking Tree space, 823 SE Grant St., through June 13th.  For more information, go to their site at

This is by no means the Bard’s best play so is seldom done.  It is assumed that the title, as mentioned by the director, is because it is a sad story.  But she has chosen to look at it as a play on words, that it could be justifiably called “Tail,” assumedly because the first Act could take place at the “tail” of a devastating Winter, giving rise to a redeeming Spring in Act II.  I like that concept.

It does seems like two separate plays, as one takes place in Sicilia, ruled by a tyrannical hereditary and the other country, Bohemia, governed by a type of benign democracy.  And, like all of his comedies, there are clowns/servants (who are usually wiser than their masters) and disguises galore (which, in reality, would probably fool no one).

But my argument with the play (not the production, mind you) is that the King’s evil side manifests itself with little or no motive (as does Iago’s in Othello and for similar reasons).  Yet these machinations form the whole reason for the plot to move forward.  He seems to need a contrivance in some of his plays (as in this one) to get the ball rolling.  And both of these plays have an (unfounded) jealousy to spur them forward to some amazing adventures.

But, that being said, the plot is (at least what I can tell you of it without being a spoiler) that that King of Sicilia, Leontes (Glenn McCumber) suspects his wife, Hermione (Erica Terpening-Romeo) of having an affair with Polixenes (Brian Demar Jones), the visiting King of Bohemia.  He relays his suspicions to his trusted adviser, Camillo (Paul Susi) and other close friends, Antigonus (Michael C. Jordan) and his wife, Paulina (Victoria Blake), but they will have none of it and Camillo actually flees with Polixenes back to Bohemia.

Herminone, who is with child, is actually brought to trial for theses supposed offenses and there are some tragic consequences to these actions.  By Act II, we are in Bohemia, where 16 years have passed.  Polixenes is concerned about his own daughter, Florizel (Isabella Buckner), who seems to be disappearing for odd periods of time.  So he and Camillo disguise themselves to go in search of her.  Princess Florizel, meanwhile, is well and happy and has found a new love in Perdita (Corey Maier), a shepherdess.  I cannot tell you more without spoiling the discoveries an audience should make.

The performers are all first-rate.  Among the stand-outs are Jones, who has a terrific presence onstage in such vehicles as this.  Terpening-Romeo plays her tragic figure well, being especially moving in her trial speech to the court.  Susi is also a powerful character onstage, having the courage to follow his convictions.  And Buckner, as the princess, also asserts herself well on the boards, letting a woman’s voice be heard and not letting status stand in the way of her true feelings.

And where the play veers into the magical and imaginative is in Fisher-Draeger’s choice to have clowns and circus performers become entrenched in the proceedings.  Although not technically as Shakespeare envisioned, perhaps, Players were an important part of his society at the time.  Note the key scenes in Hamlet, where the troupe helps uncover a mystery in the story.  To me, this points out the inventive nature of this theatre company, as they had done in their Hamlet, R&G Are Dead and The Fifth (next up for them is Cymbeline in mid-July at the Milagro space).

The Circus Project,  needs to be applauded, as well as the musicians (composer, Devan Wardrop-Saxton) also including John Bruner, Ethan LaFrance, Hayley McCurdy and Shanan Wolfe).  The clowns/actors were also an asset to the production (Adam Thompson, Winston Bischof, Chris Daniels, and LaFrance, McCurdy and Wolfe, too).  This group always raises the bar a notch when they do these productions.  I look forward to the next one.

It was a very hot night when I saw this, and no A/C at this point, as well as the space having a tin roof, which only added to the temp inside, so be prepared to dress accordingly and be well hydrated for the approximately three-hour production.  Also, probably because of the fans and the cavernous building, sometimes the actors’ lines could not be distinguished at times.

I do recommend this show.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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