Trevor Nunn is having fun, falling in love with the American ‘50s look, casting nubile blondes in his spacious Pericles, currently playing–and extended through April 10–at Theatre for a New Audience/Polonsky Shakespeare Center. The strange, dark play (circa 1607) isn’t a tragedy, yet it incorporates sickening moments of Shakespearean horror (incest and cannibalism). What the work reminds most of is a pageant or picaresque adventure, with a familial reunion reminiscent of one used as far back as The Comedy of Errors, as well as the late masterwork The Winter’s Tale. Choosing dizzy, light counterbalance with his casting, Nunn’s rhythm for the piece is steady, as if guiding a ship through a storm (the play itself is largely set on the lands and waters of the crashing Aegean). Nevertheless, the pacing does take away from the build to the emotionality of the final recognitions. Cia Crovatin, in jiggling Marilyn Monroe mode, along with her nutty, prosperous father, Earl Baker Jr., joins Lilly Englert, as the virgin/whore Marina, surely one of the most contradictory of characters in the canon. Englert is something of a contradiction herself, the most easily misunderstood of actresses, sounding perennially as if she has a sore throat—she is clearer in her diction here than in her role as Hermia in Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  There are other actresses to watch in this production as well (even more so than the men, actually): Patrice Jonson plays a no-nonsense madam with a stripped-out voice, beyond rage—some will recall her steely conviction in Tamburlaine, also at the Polansky. Another actress to watch is Sam Morales, who plays two smaller roles, yet who focuses attention. The men’s parts are not as affecting, despite the quality of acting. Christian Camargo can be a rather offbeat Shakespearean, for those who have seen his Ariel in The Tempest, which was part of the Bridge Project at BAM  in 2010. There he was wildly iconoclastic: part alien or Goth.  Pericles seems not to have stirred his imagination to the same degree of creativity (and maybe it can’t–Shakespeare loses sight of the role in the latter part of the play to concentrate on Marina).  The actor looks a bit thin, if somehow translucent, in a part that, after Ariel, doesn’t give him, or us, much to invest in.  The other men, including Will Swenson and Raphael Nash Thompson, can’t color outside of the lines: their parts come to us more from fairy tales and fables, not warring personality inconsistencies. Nunn’s Pericles, is a first-rate minimalistic production (which can remind of Fosse's Pippin, 1972; the design is by Robert Jones and may owe something to the work of Tony Waltonof a play that seems more epic theatre than psychological—a perverse fairy tale for grownups, staged, with music, as if it might be for children.  

Visit Theatre for a New Audience tickets: http://www.tfana.org/season-2016/pericles/overview

© 2016 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.

Press: Bruce Cohen.  

The complete cast includes Oberon K.A. Adjepong (Thaliard/Pandar),Earl Baker Jr. (Antiochus/Cerimon), Christian Camargo(Pericles), Philip Casnoff (Helicanus), Patrice Johnson Chevannes (Bawd/Lychorida), Gia Crovatin (Thaisa), Lilly Englert (Marina), Nina Hellman (Dionyza), Zachary Infante (Leonine/2nd Fisherman), John Keating (Boult/1st Fisherman), Ian Lassiter (Lysimachus), Sam Morales(Daughter/Handmaid), John Rothman (Simonides), Will Swenson(Cleon), Raphael Nash Thompson (Gower), and PigPen Theatre Co. (Players and Musicians), with Alex Falberg, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen, Ryan Melia, Matt Nuernberger, Arya Shahi, and Dan Weschler.

Scenic design for Pericles is by Robert Jones, who has designed numerous productions for Broadway and the West End and more than 15 productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as Mr. Nunn'sRock 'n' Roll on Broadway. Costume design is by Constance Hoffman, the acclaimed opera, dance, and theatre designer whose previous work with Theatre for a New Audience includes Titus Andronicus, The Green Bird, Much Ado About Nothing, andA Midsummer Night's Dream. Lighting design is by Stephen Strawbridge, whose credits include more than 200 productions on and Off Broadway, including Theatre for a New Audience's Souls of Naples. Sound design is by Daniel Kluger, whose credits include work with Roundabout Theatre Company, Atlantic Theater Company, and Lincoln Center Theater. Brian Brooks, whose choreography has toured nationally and internationally since 2002 and who collaborated onA Midsummer Night's Dream, is the choreographer. Renee Lutzis the production stage manager. Trevor Nunn's most recent production in New York was in 2013 –Samuel Beckett,s All That Fall. A four-time Tony and Olivier Award-winner and former Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre, he is "as celebrated for his staging of blockbuster musicals (Cats, Les Misérables) as for his revitalizing of classic texts," wrote Ben Brantley, The New York Times.

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