THE WINTER'S TALEby William Shakespeare
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Directed by Jason and Lauren Morgan
Stage Manager - Nicole Bowen
Lighting Design - Bryan Douglas
Costume Design - Lauren Morgan
Choreographer - Stefanie Glenn
Set Design - Jason and Lauren Morgan
Allen Walker - Leontes
Kirk Corley - Polixenes
Jessica Dahl-Colaw - Hermione
Cynthia Matthews - Paulina
Jason Morgan - Camillo
Bryan Douglas - Antigonus
Hunter Douglas - Mamillius
Libby Hawkins Roming - Perdita
Jorge Martin Lara - Dion/Shepherd
Andrew Bryan - Cleomenes/Shepherd
Stefanie Glenn - Emila/Shepherdess
Delmar H. Dolbier - Archidamus/Old Shepherd
Zane Allen Whitney Jr. - Jailer/Clown
Nathan Dibben - Florizel/Mariner
Eric Dobbins - Autolycus/Lord
Teran Jones - Mopsa/Lady
Candace Davis - Dorcas/Lady
Reviewed Performance: 2/16/2013
Reviewed by Charlie Bowles, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Winter's Tale was one of the last plays written by Shakespeare. With a story that's part tragedy and part romantic comedy, it's a story with tragic struggles followed by happy endings and a new look on life. It's devoid of energetic fighting action, murder most foul and grand battles in France or Egypt. It's a sweet story about jealousy, love, redemption, and forgiveness. It's a schmaltzy ending, like, "...and they lived happily ever-after." Perhaps Shakespeare was hoping for his own happy ending.
A king suspects his wife and childhood friend of adultery and becomes enraged with jealousy. He sends his wife away to give birth and eventually condemns her to die, but the gods intervene. He then rejects the daughter which the queen delivers as a child of the tryst and abandons her to die, but the gods have other plans for her as well. After sixteen years of mourning, the truth comes out, his daughter returns to marry his best friend's son, and he discovers things about his wife he never imagined.
Stolen Shakespeare Guild's The Winter's Tale, directed by Lauren and Jason Morgan, faithfully created this story as written. They cast a collection of actors who easily slipped into the roles of the Sicilian and Bohemian characters. They designed a setting with a simple open floor amidst a number of old forest stumps covered in vines, and backed with over-hanging sheer drapes. Bryan Douglas used lighting in blues and greens which gave the set a dark feeling in a still well-lit area, with a couple of lighting highlights for special scenes. Lauren Morgan designed simple costumes with varied clothing to visually represent the status and country each character belonged to. Sicilian royalty dressed in blues and greens while Bohemians wore reds. The shepherds wore browns and tans and went barefoot.
Music sounded old English and Irish, with reels and flutes and lively dance music reminiscent of Scarborough Faire. It was sometimes too loud so that important exposition was hard to understand, such as in the opening speech of Act 2, but when it was used during the sheep shearing festival, it was delightful and fit the dances perfectly.
Acting was genuine, energetic, and enthusiastic. Dialog and speeches were slowed so words were easily understood without slowing conversation or getting in the way of emotional outbursts. They avoided accents except for some delightful bits by Autolychus.
Shakespeare's text, often described as a language we can't understand, was phrased so speeches and dialogs were easy to understand, even if some antiquated words were not.
The story is about Leontes, King of Sicilia, and his jealous outrage which turns to depression and then to giddy glee. Allen Walker played this character, showing both his attempt to maintain his status as the ruler and head of the country, and his emerging suspicion about his friend and wife. His early attempt to fight these feelings gave way to wicked underhanded accusations and then horrid rulings that hurt his family and country. Eventually he returns to joy and Walker took us through the full gamut of these feelings.
His imagined nemesis was King Polixenes, played by Kirk Corley. A visiting king from Bohemia, Corley showed the confidence of a royal caught between his own power and the power of the king he was visiting, and a genuine shock at the accusations made against him. He later deals with his own struggle as a father when his son falls in love with a shepherd girl. Corley skillfully showed these conflicting shades of the king's personality.
Hermione, played by Jessica Dahl-Colaw, walked a fine line between the character of the queen and wife of King Leontes while being subjugated by his power and subject to his whim. Dahl-Colaw showed this delicate balance with a sense of quiet confidence suddenly replaced by fighting for her child and life.
One of the outstanding performances in this story was presented by Cynthia Matthews. Paulina, the wife of one of Leontes' lords, Antigonus, becomes the queen's defender, then her protector, and is required to confront the king. Matthews made Paulina a woman of powerful conviction while also juggling her precarious position with an irrational king.
Another of the outstanding roles was Atolychus. Eric Dobbins played a Lord in Act 1, but then played Autolychus and this character morph'd through several alternate roles, first as a rogue stealing the wares and clothes of a hapless shepherd, then as a bohemian traveling peddler, and later as an effeminate advisor to the king. Dobbins varied his look, voice, and type and represented the best of Shakespeare's fools and villains.
All of Shakespeare's characters are purposeful and important, as he uses them to fill in necessary pieces of the story, set the tone of the scene, and create connections between characters. SSG's cast of actors was strong vocally, enthusiastic and physical in their portrayals and each performed their tasks with total conviction. Even lesser roles had long speeches and each actor made their speeches interesting and relevant.
A final standout was the sheep shearing festival during which the relationship of Perdita, played by Libby Hawkins Roming, and Florizel, played by Nathan Dibben, solidifies their love and defies his father, Polixenes. During this festival, the shepherds perform a dance reminiscent of the May festivals of old England. Stefanie Glenn choreographed this dance and the cast danced it with gusto. It was an energetic highlight.
Stolen Shakespeare Guild uses a simplicity in their productions which probably reflects the values of the original productions more than the elaborate shows we often see today. There's a respect for the style and values in Shakespeare's canon and this makes their shows easy to watch and enjoy.
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy St., Fort Worth, TX 76107
Runs through February 24th
Friday and Saturday 8:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 2:00 pm
Evening Prices: $17.00, $16.00 seniors/students, $10.00 children 12 under
Matinee Prices: $15.00, $10.00 children 12 under
For info and tix go to www.stolenshakespeareguild.org or call Theatre Mania at 1-866-811-4111.