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Review of Pericles at Shakespeare Dallas
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
For their 2013 season, Shakespeare Dallas has two rarely performed plays in store for North Texas: Pericles (opening this weekend) and The Winter's Tale (opening this fall). Pericles remains a slight outcast in the Shakespeare canon. It was not included in the First Folio and today most scholars believe Shakespeare cowrote the play with the less-than-stellar playwright George Wilkins. Although not particularly popular among critics, Pericles proves a rollicking adventure story with humor, action, and romance.The set design and costumes are gorgeous and the actors do a great job but the casting and directing choices leave a few flaws in the production. The play starts slowly but picks up in the second half (the part most critics believe Shakespeare wrote), coming to a strong finish with the whole cast joining in a song.
Costume and Set Design
Set Designer Jeffrey Schmidt has transformed Shakespeare Dallas' rather plain stage at the Samuell Grand Amphitheater into a rich environment with docks, ships, trees, and castle walls, perfect for representing the many locations of Pericles visits. Two sections of the stage form turrets, allowing an already multifaceted structure even greater variability. Costume Designer Lyle Huchton has created a wide array of beautiful costumes, invoking a Mediterranean setting with strong Eastern influences. This play is nothing if not good looking.
Shakespeare Dallas's New Stage
Shakespeare Dallas has assembled an excellent cast for Pericles. Seth Magill is suitably dashing in the title role and also handles the more emotional scenes very well, making us truly sympathize with Pericles. Chris Ramirez provides a humorous performance as Bolt, getting more than a few laughs with his comic antics. Steven Young also plays the good king Simonides to perfection, drawing much laughter from the audience as he plots his daughter Thaisa's marriage. Perhaps the strongest performance, however, comes from Andrea Flowers, who plays Marina. Flowers makes her debut at Shakespeare Dallas in this production and makes the virtuous Marina a compelling character. Both she and Magill also show off their wonderful singing voices.
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The Direction and Casting
Under the direction of Raphael Perry, Pericles falters slightly. While Perry does an excellent job bringing music to the forefront in the play, which features two songs and a series of dances, other choices he makes do not come off as well. First, the choice to replace the play's chorus, who in the text comes in the form of Gower (the medieval poet who originally wrote this tale in English), with three women detracts from the production. While the actresses do their best in the roles, their eerie and mystical performances actually detract from the language of the play, especially when they sing the lines in harmony. Overall, they sound more like the witches from Macbeth than anything. Another serious flaw in the production is casting Steven Young as Antiochus, Cleon, and Simonides. While the choice to have Young play all three kings seems intriguing at first, since one of the major concerns of the play is presenting contrasting models of kingship, the production quickly becomes confusing. Young changes his costume only slightly and the changes Young makes in his acting are not enough to clarify the production for those unfamiliar with the plot. As if this were not confusing enough, Janielle Kastner plays both the daughter of Antiochus and Thaisa, the daughter of Simonides. Thus, the three kings and their households blur together, making an already difficult plot virtually impenetrable.
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Shakespeare's romances like Pericles (which defies the generic conventions of tragedy and comedy) are very rarely staged and this production is the first performance of Pericles in the Dallas area in many years. In spite of its flaws, Pericles is an enjoyable play and a great way to spend a summer evening. Although confusing in places, the acting and production values are so wonderful that one is more than willing to simply sit back and watch the show.