Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review: "The Winter's Tale" at RSC

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company's production The Winters Tale. The RSC has come over from Stratford-Upon-Avon, England and taken up residence this summer at the Park Avenue Armory, transforming it into a Globe-like, Renaissance-style theater. Not only was it a pleasure to see some of the best Shakespearean actors in the world perform the Bard's work, but it was also amazing to see it as it used to be originally performed right here in NYC.

The Winter's Tale is one of Shakespeare's best if not most widely known plays. It's surprising because  it is also one of his sweetest and most accessible. 

Long story short: The King of Sicilia, Leontes, suspects his guest, the King of Bohemia, Polixenes, of impregnating his wife Hermione. Despite Polixenes and Hermion's protestation, Leontes imprisons his wife and forces Polixeneso flee home. Hermione eventually gives birth to a daughter that Leontes demands be abandoned. Overcome with grief, Hermione dies and Leontes, now humbled and seeing the error of his ways, vows to spend his life in atonement.

Meanwhile, the daughter has been rescued, taken to Bohemia, and raised by shepherds. Sixteen years later she has grown into a beautiful woman named Perdita and Polixenes's son has fallen in love with her, much to the King's dissaproval. I won't give away the rest but, needless to say, secrets and lies are revealead and love conquers all.

The Winter's Tale is an usual play because it is about, of all things, human nature and how it can deceive. How the irrationality of jealousy and bitterness can take hold of us and cause us to make bad decisions that hurt others. As the notes of this play in the program indicate, "This ... is a humanist drama of morality and how it fares when powerful people's emotions smash the fabric of connections that keep society's balance." There are no bad people in this play, only deeply confused ones.

This production is splendid. The actors are not famous but rather journeymen (and women) actors steeped in the Shakespearean tradition. Greg Hicks is a haunting and haunted Leontes, Kelly Hunter plays Hermione as a raw nerve of love and fear, and Darrell D'Silva is a tortured, overwhelmed Polixenes. The entire cast is wonderful and they project such energy and such love for the Bard's words, that it's hard not to be hypnotized. 

The RSC is in town until the middle of August so, if you can make it, you should go. They are doing several other Shakespeare plays and, if they're anything like The Winter's Tale, you'll definately want to check one out.  

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