BWW Review: Portland Shakespeare Project's PERICLES WET Well-Timed for the National Conversation About Sexual Harassment and Assault
I've long had a theory that Portland theatre employs a clairvoyant. It's my best explanation for most of the shows produced at Third Rail and Artists Rep. And it's the only way I can explain Portland Shakespeare Project's current production of Ellen Margolis's excellent adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most difficult plays. PERICLES WET is a story about "men taking what they want." Even more than that, it's a story about the people who know horrific things are going on and what they choose to do with that knowledge.
In the opening scenes of PERICLES WET, just like in the Bard's original, Antiochus the king offers his daughter, Hesperides', hand in marriage to any man who can answer a riddle. The price of getting the answer wrong is death. The trick is that the riddle reveals an incestuous relationship between the king and his daughter. Pericles, a clever young prince, figures it out and quickly realizes that the game is rigged - if he gets it wrong, he'll lose his head; if he accuses the king of incest, he'll also lose his head. So, he flees, and for the rest of his life, he's haunted by the image of the young woman he knowingly left to be abused. The question is: What could he have done about it? What would you do, if it were your life on the line?
Clearly, these aren't hypothetical questions. Our current national conversation about sexual harassment and assault isn't just about the victims and their abusers. It's about the people who, usually out of self-interest, turn a blind eye. I can't imagine anything more relevant right now.
I thought PERICLES WET was outstanding - the play is very well-written, expertly exploring the complex questions of the long-term consequences of abuse as well as the responsibility of the witness. The production is also full of exceptional performances. I've never seen Ben Newman (Pericles) be anything short of phenomenal. And I was pleasantly surprised by many other members of the cast, like Alex Ramirez de Cruz, who, as Hesperides, gives the finest performance I've seen from her to date. Murri Lazaroff-Babin and Shannon Mastel also stand out in a cast that has no weakest links.
This is the world premiere of PERICLES WET. I sincerely hope this play will go on to have a long life on stages across the country. But you should see it now. More details and tickets here.