We applaud artistic director Bonnie Monte and resident director Brian B. Crowe of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey for taking some risk producing one of Shakespeare’s less popular plays "Pericles," an adventure inspired by ancient Greek mythology, think Homer's Odyssey. However, this intricate adventure of incest, attempted murder, kidnapping, shipwreck, death and more has been reshaped into an absolutely first-rate "four star” production.
The Pericles here, no connection to the Greek philosopher, is the Prince of Tyre, a Holy land kingdom. The first two acts offer high drama as Pericles is forced to surrender his crown (temporarily) to outrun an assassin by embarking on a voyage across the ancient Mediterranean where he acquires a wife, only to lose her during childbirth, a daughter that he is forced by necessity to abandon with the King of Tarsus and his villainous wife Dionyza...fortunately this dark aspect of his wandering adventure soon turns bright. Post intermission, the play is transformed into pure "soap opera" fun where Pericles and family are miraculously reunited in the final scene (now you knew this fantasy had to end happily...right?). Part of the difference between the dark early part of the play and the latter lighter, humorous plot shift is explained by scholars who believe a contemporary of Shakespeare, George Wilkins, may have been the author of the early acts with Shakespeare contributing the richer character development of the later acts.
Director Crowe has impressively staged the play with an outstanding cast of 19 (many covering two or three roles) mostly company regulars, led by Jon Barker as Pericles; Lindsey Kyler, making her Shakespeare Theatre debut, as Pericles’ daughter Marina; Jacqueline Antaramian as the goddess Diana and the evil Dionyza of Tarsus; John Hickok as Pericles’s noble deputy Helicanus; Clark Scott Carmichael as Cleon, governor of Tarsus; Maria Tholl as Thaisa, daughter of the King of Pentapolis, and wife of Pericles; Kristie Dale Sanders as Thasia’s faithful nurse maid, Lychorida, and the Bawd (brothel madame); and Corey Tazmania as the the poet Gower leader of the chorus.
Others in the fine cast are: Kelsey Burke, Andrew Criss, Aaron Gaines, John Greenbaum, Jordan Laroya, Amaya Murphy, Quentin McCuiston, Jensen Austria Olaya, Meg Kiley Smith, Jeremy Spears, and Jon Sprik.
Jon Barker, one of the company's most talented leading men, is excellent as Pericles, making a remarkable transition from the commanding young Prince seeking his bride to the senior challenged Prince who battles the sea and pirates before the tender reunion with daughter and wife. Lindsey Kyler greatly impresses as daughter Marina. Her scene at the brothel in Mytilene is one of the plays highlights. The supporting actors in this brothel scene are all terrific: Kristie Dale Sanders is marvelous as the Bawd; Andrew Criss has great fun as Pandar, the super agent "Scott Boros" of prostitutes, he is also amazing as two kings...the evil King of Antioch, who has a strong attachment to his daughter (incestuous relationship!), and Pericles' father-in-law, the more kindly Simonides, King of Pentapolis, in the best costume of the play. Maria Tholl is lovely as Thaisa, the poised daughter of the King of Pentapolis who has knights duel for her hand in marriage, the winner in an exciting duel scene, is naturally Pericles.
Commanding unique attention in two key roles is Jacqueline Antaramian. She goes from the beloved goddess Diana to the evil Dionyza of Tarsus who plots Marina's murder. Corey Tazmania is a joy as the blind healer, Cerimon, and the poet Gower leader of the chorus. The other chorus members are Meg Kiley Smith and Amaya Murphy.
Applause is in order to the creative staff for their important contributions: Brian Ruggaber designed the attractive, stark, but versatile white wintery set; Jayoung Yoon the sumptuous costumes; Karin Graybash sounds of the sea storms; Andrew Hungerford very effective lighting effects; and Rick Sordelet's amazing fight choreography; Kathy Snyder is the production stage manager.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio December 7, 2013
You can join Prince Pericles on his adventure through December 29th at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Ave. (at Lancaster Road) in Madison, New Jersey.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 973-408-5600 or by visiting www.ShakespeareNJ.org. Performances are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays at7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Individual tickets range from $35 to $70; student rush tickets are available 30 minutes prior to curtain for $15.