Glittering 'The Winter's Tale' opens the summer for OSP
Shakespeare, the Beloved Bard, reaches across the ages. Today, many performances are adjusted to better suit modern sensibilities. This is not a problem for lovers of Shakespeare, well known himself for dramatic license. To quote Kathryn McGill, Executive/Artistic Director for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, “We aren’t playing it safe this year! Do you dare play along?”
Oh yes! The dare is well worth the journey in “The Winter’s Tale,” directed by McGill, that begins Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park’s thirty-first summer season of fascination at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage. Because the performance is outdoors in a windy state, some lines may be lost, so it’s a great idea to read the synopsis included in the program. “The Winter’s Tale” is one of Shakespeare’s later works and is a rather whimsical tragi-comedy.
King Leontes of Sicilia is enjoying a visit with his friend, King Polixenes from Bohemia. He becomes jealous watching his beloved Queen Hermione convince Polixenes to remain longer and suddenly believes the worst of his beloved and his friend. Polixenes escapes with the assistance of Camillo, who must betray his master Leontes in order to prevent a murder among kings. Hermione gives birth to a daughter, and Leontes does not accept the child as his own. He forces loyal Lord Antigonus to dispose of her; the baby is left on the shores of Bohemia, where a poor but generous shepherd raises her.
Back in Sicilia, Leontes realizes his errors, but not before Paulina, noblewoman and wife to Antigonus, gives the King a serious dressing down and a few smacks. Leontes soon learns that his daughter Perdita has survived, although not because Antigonus has returned with the tale. No indeed! A bear several times the size of an Alaskan Kodiak has killed Antigonus. This takes place on stage, and under cover the same actor then becomes a kindly shepherd. Some audience members may miss the death of Antigonus, but rest assured, he is most certainly deceased. Soon Polixenes and Perdita, with Leontes’ faithful Lord Camillo, return to Sicilia where the truth is revealed and all is right with the world again. However, no one really remembers the death of Mamillius, King Leontes and Queen Hermione’s firstborn son, who died from illness and grief during the time of troubles all those years ago.
Director McGill takes quite a risk having Paulina attack her king with no repercussions for her physical beating except a reprimand. The words of Shakespeare work in this attack, yet few directors would follow with a physical assault from Paulina. Yet deck the king she does, and is merely banished for her loyalty to Hermione. In any monarchy such an act against the body of a sovereign would have far more serious consequences, yet surprisingly this works well in this production.
The cast is excellent as well. Certain performances are exceptional. Curt Martin is brief as Mamillius (as is the young prince’s life); Martin doubles as a young shepherd and reveals the soul of an actor being born. Mark Branson is very nice as the atypical yes-man Antigonus and excels as the Old Shepherd (ain’t reincarnation grand?), yet again it’s only double-casting!Luke Eddy is to be congratulated as King Leontes alongside an equally believable Matt Cheek as King Polixenes. Alissa Mortimer is beautiful and noble in her portrayal of the good Queen Hermione. Rachael Barry as Perdita, and Austin Lucas as Bohemian Prince Florizel, are wonderful as two young lovers. Nevertheless, Renee Krapff as Paulina and David Fletcher-Hall as Camillo come close to stealing the show, embracing the characters McGill outlines for them perfectly. Fortunately, Josh McGowan saves them from such thieving knavery. His Archidamus is very good, but his Autolycus is such a knave that he puts larcenous fingers on the charm of ‘The Winter’s Tale.” It is the concentrated excellence of the cast that allows each actor to perform at their highest level. The entire cast rates superb accolades. This ‘winter’s tale’ becomes this ‘summer’s scenes’ to be seen if not always heard. Shall we petition for a no-fly zone over the Myriad?
The Winter’s Tale” can be seen at the Myriad Water Stage at the Myriad Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City through June 20, 2015. For tickets and information contact OSP online at www.oklahomashakespeare.com or call 405-235-3700. Don’t miss this production, in this lifetime!