Kingsmen’s Winters Tale Holds Water Admirably
A review of the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s production of Shakespeare’s The Winters Tale
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By shouldering one of Shakespeare’s most unwieldy plays, the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company undertakes a formidable challenge with The Winters Tale. But under the guidance of director Susan Angelo, the play’s dubious changes in place, time and character-motivation become the cornerstones of a largely unfaltering and believable production.
The cast of The Winters Tale is headed by Richard Baird as Leontes, and Aaryn Kopp as Hermione, both of whom give admirable performances. Baird crafts the character of Leontes carefully. He infuses the king with a kind of macho clinginess, which underpins his subsequent mental deterioration. When Leontes rages, Baird never implies he has ceased to love his wife but seems to heartbrokenly condemn her and her baby out of a twisted sense of obligation.
Kopp as Hermione is no wimpy victim, but faces her woes like a defiant Joan of Arc. She is not only divinely pure, but also very real and visceral.
Finally, a remarkably skilled Laurie Walters acts as a shrewd and fiery foil to Leontes. As the lady-in-waiting turned wise-woman, Paulina, Walters sows her gems of dark comedy throughout the play with natural aplomb and a vast stage presence.
For this theatergoer, however, the most laudable aspect of this production appears in the naturalness of the supernatural. When the god Apollo pops in to provoke Leontes’ repentance, the effect is both awesome and unsurprising. Divine intervention and miracles become completely believable because they are presented so naturally and wholeheartedly.
Similarly, the famous statue-scene at the end of the play is miraculous and magical. It effectively convinces the audience that Hermione’s resurrection from stone is in no way a manipulative charade on the part of Paulina, but an inexplicably real miracle.
Unfortunately one element of this play remains unresolved in this production: the exasperating turn to comedy and romance in the fourth act heralded by the famous “exit pursued by a bear.” As it turns out, the long-awaited bear appears not quite abstractly enough to be farcical, but not quite compellingly enough to be serious.
As if in the wake of that unseemly bear, the play thereafter begins to lag, while the scene transports to Bohemia. Though the two young lovers, Rebekah Brockman as Perdita, and Lewis Blanchard as Florizel, were adequate in the horizontal parts Shakespeare wrote for them, their performances may have benefited from a more heightened engagement with the stakes. But again, the Bohemian scenes’ lack of spark may be more the fault of the Bard himself than of this particular production. At any rate, once the former tension enters back into the plot in the last few scenes, the performance returns to its previous heights, and brings the production to a profound conclusion.
Overall, The Kingsmen Company’s Winters Tale was a surprisingly gourmet dish for a mere $15. The atmosphere of the outdoor venue is family-oriented, and the audience is at times chatty. But as soon as the show got underway it is very easy to ignore the occasional interruptions. Patrons are advised to bring a blanket and something to sit on since the absence of formal seating requires audience members to camp out picnic-style on a sloped lawn.