Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Winter's Tale"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark


"The Winter's Tale"

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Curt L. Tofteland

Set and Lighting Design by Caleb Wertenbaker
Costume Design by Charles Schoonmaker
Properties Design by Elizabeth Locke
Composer Peter Bayne
Choreography by Sarah Hickler
Stage Manager Adele Nadine Traub

Mamillius
OLIVER STICKNEY
Perdita
CRISTI MILES
Leontes
RICARDO PITTS-WILEY
Hermione/Servant
PAULA LANGTON
Antigonus/Shepherd
RICHARD SNEE
Paulina/Shepherdess
BOBBIE STEINBACH
Autolycus/Cleomenes
JOHN KUNTZ
Florizel/Lord
JAMES RYEN
Camillo/Jailor
DOUBLAS THEODORE
Clown/Archidamus/Officer
DOUG LOCKWOOD
Polixenes/Mariner/2nd Gentleman
JOEL COLODNER
1st Gentleman/Emilia/Mopsa/Ensemble
MARA SIDMORE
1st Lady/Dion/Dorcas/3rd Gentleman
CHRISTINE HAMEL

"The Winter's Tale" is about change. And there is a Lot of changing involved with the new Actors' Shakespeare Project production. In the fastest switch, Richard Snee playing Antigonus backs toward an exit pursued by a bear --- actually, the bear is a rolling, growling, clawing cloud pursuing him, made up of the rest of the cast all swatched in black robes and masks roiling implacably after him. But immediately after he disappears, Snee REappears, crook in hand, as an old Bohemian shepherd --- and that snarling mass of bears drops on docile all-fours doffing their black robes to become --- his sheep! The actor's speech and stance are so different from one character to the next you'd think some magician were at work backstage. And that's only One of a myriad of delightful transformations.

On a whole different level, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley playing Leontes, King of Sicilia, undergoes an astonishing change: from a fondly loving husband into a monstrous tyrant convinced against all evidence that his pregnant queen Hermione (Paula Langton) has slept with his visiting childhood friend Polixenes King of Bohemia (Joel Colodner). His jealousy is quicker and more imperiously violent that anything in Othello despite everyone in his kingdom trying to reason or argue him back to sanity. [I can't avoid mentioning a certain American President here!]

Throughout this grimly gritty almost Greek tragedy, in which the mad king demands that his new-born daughter be exposed and killed, the chilled court of Sicilia bundle in long black overcoats --- as though fearing the frost of their perhaps insane ruler. But, in the twinkling of an act-break, sixteen years fly by and the scene shifts to the warming shores of Bohemia, where that Shepherd's adopted daughter (Cristi Miles) bathes in the sunny smiles of Polixenes' son (James Ryen). Of course, when this son Florizel's dad and his adviser Camillo (Doublas Theodore) drop in (disguised of course!) on a lowly sheep-shearing fest, the idea of a prince marrying a commoner blows frost on the festival, and everyone flies back to Sicilia for another change --- the happily-ever-after ending!

Charles Schoonmaker's costumes vary between easily thrown-off robes to elegantly colorful court dress underneath. Composer Peter Bayne's music (played on-stage) underscores the icy madness of the king and Sarah Hickler's barefoot peasant-dancing. And there are star-turns for people like Bobbie Steinbach (a ringing defense-attorney!), John Kuntz (Autolycus the enthusiastic cut-purse), Christine Hamel and Mara Sidmore (Dorcas & Mopsa --- or is it the other way round?), Doug Lockwood (the shepherd's comical son!) and least but not last Oliver Stickney as little Mamillius. The A.S.P. reached down to Kentucky to import Director Curt L. Tofteland, and over to the Cambridge Multicultural Center for an in-the-square stage completely surrounded by enthusiastic audience, with Caleb Wertenbaker's cool but warming lighting.

The more things change --- the better the show grows!
Drop in and see for yourselves....

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )

"The Winter's Tale" (25 January - 18 February)
THE ACTORSí SHAKESPEARE PROJECT
Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second Street, CAMBRIDGE, MA
1 (866) 811-4111

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