3 out of 4 stars
Artistic Director Robert Falls reimagines The Winter’s Tale—one of William Shakespeare’s final and most wildly theatrical works at Goodman Theatre this spring. In The Winter’s Tale, a jealous king accuses his wife of infidelity, setting off a calamitous series of events. But what begins as tragedy evolves, unexpectedly, into a fantastical journey—from wrath to redemption to reconciliation.
The first act encompasses drama and accusation in such ferocity that leads to death, meanwhile the second act reveres comedy, song and reunion. This mixture of themes has led to the modern classification to deem it a romance rather than a tragedy or comedy.
The opening set contains black mirrors, shag rug and pillows opens to this feeling of animalistic, classic romantic set up, which feeds into our main character’s instinctual jealous urges for male dominance. This is furthered by the bear costume being realistic and fearsome was a foreboding touch and hints at the underlying trauma this play explores for young Maxillium, played by talented Charlie Herman.
Again, the set’s scrims and mirrors creates these three reflections back upon the audience. Walt Spangler (Set Design) creates multi-faceted perspective that mimics this tank like fascination with the drama on stage. Leontes’ mania is wonderfully expressed by Dan Donohue’s singsong paranoia filled monologues. Donohue’s rhythm for language is controlled and manipulated perfectly for his character. King Leonte’s rage illustrated through Donohue’s hunched shoulders and heavy pacing creates an animal like vividness – like a shark or thematically a bear. The wonderful part of this performance was the structure and character arches for each individual. The language is so toned with drama and ironic humor.
“While I have spent much of my career exploring stories of loss, failure and tragedy, I am also drawn to plays that show how life’s inevitable hardship and melancholy can be tempered by humor, rebirth and redemption,” said Robert Falls. “With its darker themes and its levity, The Winter’s Tale presents a full scope of human experience—taking the audience on a journey that begins as a classic tragedy and ends with an unlikely transformation and reconciliation. I believe it has much to say to a 21st century audience, with a multifaceted worldview well suited to our complex era.”
“It is the heretic who makes the fire, not her who burns in it,“ declares Paulina, played by intense Christiana Clark. Paulina, a close friend to Queen Hermoine, exemplifies the strong female presence and persecution while jealousy reigns. Hermonie played by Kate Fry was fierece and enduring – not afraid to use logic as a weapon against her oppressing oppositions. The settings although simple is style are complex is symbolism like the court room scene constructed out of chaotic chairs splayed purposefully over the stage by Donohue’s Leontes. Further transition melodically into Bohemia with giant sheep and flowers was dynamic and added a bit more lightness going into the second act. The second movement into no rules Bohemia, the set is more lavish and the language more proclaiming than introspective. The 4th wall is broken by Philip Earl Johnson as the con-artist Autolycus, playing a guitar folk style – almost reminded me of a Pearl Jam/ Dave Matthews vibe. The change in speed and tone is also reflected in all the time shifts with costuming and set. I couldn’t quite place this absurdist mash-up of 20’s, 60’s and 80’s. The puzzle pieces are put together through hilarity of jokesters, a little bit of dancing and conartist perfection. The wigs were well styled and time transition greatly reflected in Leontes‘ character particularly. His short hair and large coat replicates something of a skinned bear. Another note is the choregraphy and blocking were really well done and I think that contributed alot to keeping the audience engaged with this production. The magical realism is strong in this piece with a meloncoly eeriness – as if we have missed something the entire time.
The Winter’s Tale appears now through June 9 at the Goodman Theater. Tickets are available at GoodmanTheatre.org/TheWintersTale, by telephone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office (170 N. Dearborn).
Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with dual degrees in English and Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!