Theater Online - New York Theater Reviews

CalendarSearch by Date:
Current Reviews
No Current Reviews

Recent Reviews

Upcoming Reviews
Nothing Currently Scheduled
Fly Out Menu
Open: 03/09/12- Close: 04/01/12 Pericles, Prince Of Tyre
Reviewed for By: Rachel Wohlander


There is much debate over the authorship of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. It is generally accepted to be at least partially written by William Shakespeare and co-written by Shakespeare's contemporary, George Wilkins. Most modern editors conclude that Shakespeare wrote about half, the second half, and it shows. The early portion of the play often attributed to Wilkins does not show the same musicality of language, or clarity of character and narrative as the rest.

To make up for discrepancies in language and style, Co-directors (and also performers in the piece) Jack Herholdt and Natalie D. Holmes of the American Bard Theater Company, along with a strong ensemble of players, have adapted the script and incorporated music, masks, puppets, colorful costumes, textures, humor and a well-oiled array of story-telling techniques. The result is a heartfelt and lively rendition of this epic adventure, playing through April 1st.

The production utilizes a greek chorus to help narrate – appropriate considering the origin of the tale, and helpful in steering the ambitious production through ever-changing locations and encounters with new characters. Pericles' (sympathetically played by Timothy C. Goodwin) travels take him to no less than six different locales, and the high seas in-between. He begins in Antioch where he seeks the hand of the princess, but when he uncovers the incestuous relationship between the princess and her father, Pericles must flee to save his life. Pursued by Antioch's assassins even in his home city of Tyre, Pericles' loyal counselor Helicanus (played with strength and grace by Erin Gilbreth) advises that he leave town until things blow over.

After a brief stop in Tarsus where Pericles is able to save the kingdom from famine, his sea voyage continues until he is shipwrecked on the shores of Pentopolis. Here, knights have gathered to compete for the hand of Princess Thaisa (a charming performance by Natalie D. Holmes) and Pericles wins the tournament and the princess' favor. Upon receiving word that it is safe to return home, Pericles and his now-pregnant new bride sail to Tyre, but Thaisa dies in childbirth during a tempest, and her body is thrown overboard. Her casket washes ashore at Ephsesus where her corpse is magically resurrected by a healer. She vows to spend her days serving at the Temple of Diana.

Meanwhile, Pericles drops off his infant daughter, Marina, to be raised by the king and queen of Tarsus. When Marina is fourteen, the queen decides her ward's beauty outshines her own daughter's, so conspires to have Marina murdered. The murder is foiled when pirates show up, kidnap Marina and sell her to a brothel. Marina manages to preserve her honor with wit and virtue, and converts a would-be customer to a powerful ally. This ally, the governor, brings Marina to Pericles, who is grief-stricken, after been told of the death of his daughter. Marina manages to persuade Pericles out of his silence with her song, and the conclusion brings a touching reunion.

Shakespeare, and the American Bard Theater, pack a lot of tricks. The problematic first nine scenes are made lush with goodies such as a larger-than-life and ominous King Antiochus puppet, and his masked daughter, with a haunted, disembodied voice. The clever bread-and-puppet style puppets and masks are designed by Emily Hartford and Eric Tronolone respectively. Antiochus' cloak makes a cavern that Pericles must enter, after shadow puppets reveal the gruesome fates of suitors who have come before him. The production has a strong beginning, and establishes a tradition of surprises around every corner. Mark Hankla's platform set is cleverly utilized, representing many locale's with simple, well-placed changes.

The puppets and masks mostly fall away in the second half, in favor of more music, dance and fun costumes. Sarah Thea Swafford is responsible for the colorful costume design and the beautiful choreography is Kikau Alvaro's. Sam Laakso's fight choreography is also strong, as is Jeanne E. Travis' sound design, and Justin West's projections, with all design elements feeding into a sometimes cartoonish, presentational style – think Homer's Odyssey meets Monty Python. It could almost be a children's story, but for the long and twisting plot, and topics of incest and brothels.

Live music creates diverse emotional landscapes, with percussion establishing storms at sea, playful use of castanets in Princess Thaisa's dance, as well as guitar and ukelele. There are three beautiful tunes, composed by William TN Hall, with Weep No More, sung by Lily Warpinski creating an especially sincere and emotional moment between father and daughter.

The second act moves faster, with more humor and higher stakes. Jack Herholdt shines, and steals many laughs, in the role of Bawd of the Brothel, playing off the dirty-minded Igor-like servant, (Tom Wolfson), and Lily Warpinski is a sweet and affable Marina. The ensemble is strong across the board. These eleven versatile performers speak the verse impeccably and play multiple roles without confusing the already-involved plot – much as I imagine Shakespeare intended it.

If the publicity material's claims of puppetry and fabrics had me hoping for something more experimental, what I got was well-executed, though fairly traditional Shakespeare, utilizing a playful gamut of sensory delights to create many worlds and tones. The cornucopia of colors, sights and sounds highlights the humor and romance, and ultimately the hope, that though the road is winding and the future unknown, things tend to work out all right for the virtuous. 

American Globe Theatre : 145 W. 46th Street