BWW Review: The Black Rep's Intriguing Production of PERICLES
Though not as frequently performed or fondly remembered as some of the classics in the Shakespearean canon, Pericles is an interesting tale nonetheless. While it's usually cataloged along with the romances and comedies, its circumstances are really quite tragic, until it reaches for a fairytale ending that neatly resolves matters in a satisfactory manner. The Black Rep's inspired re-imagining of this piece makes for a very captivating evening of theatre, as the characters travel back and forth in time, and locations are altered from the original text to include scenes in Haiti, Cuba, Sapelo Island, Georgia and New Orleans.
Pericles seeks to wed the daughter of Antiochus, but in order to win her hand he must first solve a riddle. Unfortunately, he does, and discovers that the solution points to an incestuous relationship between father and daughter. Knowing that this is a no-win situation, Pericles flees, but his ship wrecks (ships have a habit of wrecking in Shakespeare) and he lands in Cuba. He ends up marrying the lovely Thaisa, and when he hears word of the death of Antiochus, he decides to set sail for his homeland of Tyre with his pregnant bride in tow. When it appears that she has died during childbirth, Pericles is persuaded to bury her at sea. In the meantime, Pericles has decided not to risk his child's life on another perilous sea voyage, and leaves her in the care of the less than trustworthy Dionyza on the island of Haiti. But, since this isn't really a tragedy, you can probably guess that things eventually do turn out for the better.
Ka'ramuu Kush gives a strong, earnest performance as Pericles, and you can definitely feel his pain and anguish over time as he loses his family and eventually goes into seclusion. Patrese McClain is also good as his wife Thaisa, and Sharisa Whatley does fine work as his virginal daughter Marina, while also playing the sexy and alluring daughter of Antiochus. Robert A. Mitchell is delightfully playful as Gower, a brightly clad figure who introduces the play and adds commentary at certain pivotal moments, and he's also sharp as Dionyza's ineffectual husband, Cleon. Susie Wall is a sinister presence as the twisted Dionyza, and also has fun as Bawd, a madam at the whorehouse where Marina winds up.
A splendid supporting cast, all of whom appear in multiple roles, includes: Joe Hanrahan, Ryan Cunningham, Dwight House, Linda Kennedy, Erik Kilpatrick, Rich Pisarkiewicz, Terrell Randall, Chauncey Thomas and Theo Wilson.
Andrea Frye's direction is very well conceived, and works to keep the audience off balance with its odd juxtapositions of time and location. She's aided by Dunsi Dai's multi-level, multi-purpose set, as well as the dramatic lighting scheme of Mark Varns, the atmospheric sound design by Robin Weatherall, and the mood setting projections designed by Thomas Byrd, which fill three large screens behind the set with vivid imagery. Sarita Fellows produces a wide variety of costumes to fit the various periods that are portrayed, and Heather Beals neatly choreographs the few moments of dance that arise.
The Black Rep has mounted an intriguing and entertaining presentation of one of Shakespeare's lesser known works, and it's certainly deserving of your attention. Pericles continues through January 30, 2011 at the Grandel Theatre.