BWW Review: PERICLES PRINCE OF TYRE at Gamut Theatre Group
Pericles, Prince of Tyre is widely regarded as being the product of a collaboration between Shakespeare and George Wilkins. Scholars theorize that the first two acts, recounting the various travels of Pericles, may have been written by Wilkins, while the final acts were pure Shakespeare. It is estimated that the play was written around 1607. One of the most interesting aspects of Pericles is that it doesn't fit a typical Shakespearean genre. What seems like a tragedy ends with a beautiful and romantic reunion. Not only that, but it is filled with surprising and delightful elements of comedy. This was easily one of my favorite Shakespeare plays to watch, and it can be seen at Gamut Theatre from November 3rd-25th.
Gamut Theatre's Pericles, Prince of Tyre, directed by Thomas Weaver, is a beautiful production. The different elements of the production, from costumes to lighting, sound, and props, work well together to create a unique experience for the audience. The beginning of the show is one of the most creative I have seen recently. The strategic use of sound and lighting timed just right, makes the audience feel as though they are in the middle of a storm, and when the actors suddenly appear on stage, it immediately draws the audience in and makes them watch just to see what is going to happen next.
The first moments of the show following the storm are performed with movement, body language, and expressions only. No one utters a sound. It is completely mesmerizing. The cast does an amazing job at giving the audience clues as to what has happened simply through the way the express their fear, anxiety, pain, and concern. Even without words it is an intense scene.
Gamut's production is very accessible to modern audiences. In fact, it begins in modern times and, as the characters on stage are drawn into the world of Pericles, so is the audience. The creative use of luggage and other props to form set pieces and costumes keeps the show moving, and is brilliantly executed in its simplicity.
Philip Wheeler is tasked with setting the scenes as Gower the narrator. It is not an easy job to tell the story while remaining (for the most part) separate from the story. Wheeler's demeanor, body language, and expression fit the character well. Unfortunately, he does not project as well as he needs to for the space, and it is often difficult to hear and catch all of his words. Luckily, the ensemble characters often help to set the scene when there is a change in location or characters, but the inability to fully hear the narrator can easily cause some holes in the story line for the audience. Wheeler particularly shines at the beginning and end of the show where his talent in telling a story through expression and movement really comes through. A similar issue with projection plagues the characters of Helicanus and Diana, portrayed by Raoul Anderson. When Anderson is facing you, the lines come through, but in general it is difficult to hear Anderson throughout the show.
Pericles, played by Matt Romain, is a character that undergoes a number of different emotions throughout the show. Romain handles the emotional shifts well. His facial expressions are fantastic and are always in line with what his character is experiencing. At the beginning of the show in particular, his speech pattern is too fast and it is difficult to catch what he is saying. This problem creeps up whenever his character gets excited or emotional about something. However, when he is speaking at a slower pace, this is not an issue. Hopefully he will work on slowing down his speech in future performances because his overall performance is stellar, and the audience really wants to know what he is saying. Along with his great expressions, Romain also brings a great physicality to the performance, not just in general movement, but also in the dance numbers and in the fight scene.
Most of the cast members portray multiple characters throughout the show. It is not an easy thing to try to move from one character to another, and the cast displayed excellent versatility and agility. Even with minimal costume changes, it was clear when a new character was on stage.
Samantha A. Camp is brilliant in her roles as Antiochus, Simonides, and Leonine. These are all extremely different characters, and Camp is able to adjust her voice, tone, posture, body language, and so forth to fit each character with seeming ease. My favorite role for her is Simonides, as the audience sees her playful side in this role. Her interactions with Meredith Greene as her daughter, Matt Romain as Pericles, and the three knights played by Ross Carmichael, Aneesa Neibauer, and Nick Wasileski are delightful.
Jess Ross and Brennen Dickerson interact well as Cleon and Dionyza, the couple to whom Pericles entrusts his daughter. The tension in their relationship over the death of Marina is palpable and heartbreaking. Ross also excels in her role as the assassin Thaliard. She is wonderfully diabolical and fills the role with the perfect level of darkness and mystery. Ross and Dickerson with Chris Ondeck make a great trio of pirates, and their entrance is one of the most entertaining in the show. Ondeck is also a impressive in his role as Lysimachus, and his chemistry with Gabriella DeCarli's Marina is beautiful to watch.
Gabriella DeCarli and Meredith Greene are cast primarily in the ingénue roles, which they perform well. The role of Thaisa, daughter of Simonides and eventual wife of Pericles, is an excellent part for Greene. Her interactions with Pericles are adorable, and she looks the most comfortable on stage when they dance together. DeCarli's Marina is sweet, determined, and intelligent, and her scene with Romain's Pericles near the end of the show is inspiring.
Perhaps my favorite performances to watch throughout the show are those of Ross Carmichael, Aneesa Neibauer, and Nick Wasileski. These actors make up the majority of the ensemble roles, changing from royal servants to fishermen to knights to brothel owners/workers without skipping a beat. Their agility in acting all of these roles is amazing, and their comedic timing keeps the audience on their toes and keeps the energy of the show moving.
Gamut Theatre's Pericles is truly a beautiful production. They have woven modern elements into Shakespeare in a way that seems natural and true to the story line. Get your tickets for Pericles by visiting www.gamuttheatre.org.