Review: Shakespeare Fest Goes ‘Game of Thrones” in ‘Winter’s Tale’

Leontes, Polixenes, Hermione CROPPEDA jealousy-mad king, psychotic fathers, petty thieves, abandoned daughter and secret lovers– no, it’s not Season 5 of “Game of Thrones”

Even better, it’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival‘s THE WINTER’S TALE, ably directed by Sid Garrett, now thru Sunday in Southmoreland Park (47th and Oak across from the Nelson).

Nobody gets pushed out a window, but  count this trip to the Bard’s backyard as one of those “things I do for love.”

Plus–unlike HBO– it’s free.

KC Shakes has been doing a great job staging Will’s greatest hits. WINTER’S TALE, alas, is not among them. Though it’s produced every once in a while, it’s not the first of the Canto (not even in the Top 10) to come to mind. I doubt it’s ever seen a professional KC production.

That’s because it’s sort of a mess.

The first three acts (presented here prior to intermission) are a tale of deceit, madness and revenge. Leontes, King of Sicilia (powerfully portrayed by KCS vet Bruce Roach), sees his friend Polixenes, king of Bohemia (the always delightful John Resenhouse) playing footsy with Queen Hermoine (the lovely Cinnamon Schultz) and goes ape shit.

Act Two jumps sixteen years and thousands of miles away to the Bohemian countryside, where boys romp, girls gambol and a big white bear prances around (okay, he eats a guy, but he looked like he was prancing). It’s like splicing an episode of “The Soprano’s” onto the last 15 minutes of “Green Acres” or “Animal Planet.”

Florizel and Perdita with dancersBut Sid and Company pull it off.

Perhaps it’s the relatively quick pace with which things resolve themselves in Act One. Unlike most of the Shakespeare oeuvre, you’re not waiting around 2 1/2 hours for the tragedy to play itself out– the nice people are dead in 90 minutes flat. In our short attention span world, this keeps things moving (and I don’t remember any other Shakespeare that jumps time sixteen years– that was different).

Pulling the whole thing together is a beautiful score by Greg Mackender. Greg and his quartet thread their melodic lines through the play deftly, even marrying the rogue Autolycus’s (an effective Matthew Rapport) snarky lyrics to this purpose. There’s a lushness to Mackender’s musical meanderings that brings the whole evening a misty romantic feel, especially when we meet the lovers, Perdita (a dazzling Emily Peterson) and Florizel (Daniel Frederick). (Spoiler alert– Perdita is Sicilia’s long-lost princess and Flo is Polixene’s kid– get it?

Like Romeo and Juliet, sort of).

WT LogoProduction values are all first rate. Rusty Wendall‘s sound and Ward Everhart‘s light designs are terrific– at one point, I actually thought we were going to get pelted by their thunder and lighting storm. Mary Traylor‘s costumes and Gene Friedman‘ set brought a nice period feel to the production (though what period exactly I can’t tell you).

But the biggest bravas go to the KC Shakes actors and their spirited artistic director Sidonie Garrett. In the midst of her own emotional roller coaster, Sid managed to get the play on with verve, style and entertainment. That’s what the Shakespeare Festival is all about. That’s what Steve Chick always wanted it to be. It’s a testament to him and Marilyn Strauss, Crosby Kemper, everyone who’s carried the ball all of these years, that it works– even on THE WINTER’S TALE.

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One Response to Review: Shakespeare Fest Goes ‘Game of Thrones” in ‘Winter’s Tale’

  1. chuck says:

    Very cool. Sounds great.

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