Reviewed by Abigail Cohen
When most people think of Shakespeare, they remember sitting in school reading tragedies like Hamlet and King Lear, or comedies like A Midsummer Night's Dream or The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare wrote in all genres however, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre, presented by the Folding Chair Classical Theatre falls into a lesser-known category -- adventure.
The story follows the life and times of the eponymous hero, from youth to marriage to old age. It's a very intense, involved plot, and it had me at the edge of my seat for its two hour running time, an impressive feat considering its minimal surroundings, as the company goal, as the name suggests, is to "tell stories simply and clearly, using only the actors and the text."
The play was held in white-walled room with no curtains, costumes, props, scenery or lighting cues and one exit from the stage. There were 6 actors and 17 characters, as well as a few unnamed parts, so everyone had to switch into a different person with only an exit and reentrance as a cue, as well as clever shifts in voice and bearing. The actors did remarkable jobs of transitioning so quickly from character to character, but it did become confusing at times, especially when everything is happening in Elizabethan English. The plot is quite complex, and there were moments when I wondered if I had completely grasped what was going on. Interpreting the plot and language is part of the fun for me though, so it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the show.
The story begins with Pericles, a young prince, at the court of beautiful princess of Antioch, who he can only wed if he answers her riddle. However, while there he learns a horrible secret about her family, and is forced to go into hiding to escape the wrath of her father. He hears of the improvised Tarsus, and goes to aid them. While at sea he is shipwrecked and washes up in Pentopolus, where he weds the princess Thais. On his way home they encounter another storm, where their child, Marina is born. However, Pericles is an old man before they are together again.
The plot is fun, but predictable. Even when I knew exactly what would happen next, the anxiety as I waited to see how it would happen was just as exiting as watching a mysterious plot unfold. Dramatic irony is a powerful tool, and Shakespeare wields it like true master, creating a great story for all occasions. Watching comedy, romance, tragedy and action play out on the stage is a timeless pleasure.
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