Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Tale of Pericles

Currently in repertory from Southwest Shakespeare Company are Pericles and Frankenstein. The latter I was keen to see from the start but the former I thought I would see if I could but wouldn't be too sad if I had to miss. I knew nothing of Pericles and the name evoked a historical, military story about leaders and duties and valor and dry content. Turns out that such is not the picture at all.

True, Pericles is a king. And there are other leaders and such figures throughout the play. And yet the play is anything but dry. It's emotionally moving and dark and light and fun all at once. It's a fantasy, where impossible things happen, and yet it's grounded in real world feelings, as well. It's a story of love and tragedy and happiness and sorrow. There were moments that were like watching a tragedy and moments akin to watching a comedy and yet somehow the play never quite landed on one or the other: it took the best of both. As someone who tends to favor the tragedies more than the comedies when it comes to Shakespeare, this was the perfect blend.

Stylistically, music was once again a central element to the production, as it often has been lately with Southwest Shakespeare. And this was one of those instances where music lent a painfully tender joining force to the scenes. The main piece they played with was "Sleepsong" which listeners of Secret Garden will recognize. If you're familiar with the song, you'll already know the specific emotional atmosphere it creates. So picture that entwined within live, dramatic scenes of heartbreak and heart-healing.

Usually it's hard for me to watch and follow along with and enjoy a Shakespeare play with which I have no familiarity. Usually it helps to know, going in, the gist of the story or, ideally, to already know the characters and the important scenes and the different possible ways to bring it all together. This time I knew nothing and yet I could follow along so well. Director Quinn Mattfeld and the whole team involved did a great job of creating a production digestible to a modern audience. It was fun and exciting and touching. All of the actors, as well, brought everything together seamlessly, even when they were jumping from one character to another (quite different) character in a single moment, often without even leaving the stage. Joshua Murphy, as Pericles, in particular gave the audience that emotional link.

Pericles isn't someone we can relate to, from one way of looking at it. He's a king, for one thing, and the things that happen to him are quite different from the things that happen to most of us. And yet his emotion was something for us to relate to. I particularly enjoy that we could go through everything that this plot went through and still come to that ending. That's . . . peaceful.

Well done. This was probably one of my favorite productions from Southwest Shakespeare. And you still have a couple more chances to see it, too: it's running through this Saturday.

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