Monday, July 16, 2012

The Winter's Tale, Wooden O Productions

I'm trying to remember what I said that made the Weisenheimer think that I don't like The Winter's Tale. I might have been grousing about that whole business in act V scene ii where, after the dramatic build up of act V scene i (spoiler alert!), three Gentlemen come in and blab about how everything worked out, and then we move on to all this Pygmalion/Galatea nonsense in scene iii with the "dead" queen posing as a statue and coming to life to the astonishment of all assembled. I always think Shakespeare must have been on deadline and ran out of time and thought "oh, fuck it," and dashed off 150 or so lines of exposition and then 150 or so lines ripped off from Ovid and called it good. So, OK, I don't love the ending.

But I did thoroughly enjoy Wooden O's production of The Winter's Tale, directed by Mary Machala and playing in Seattle area parks through August 12. Every time the play risks getting mired in Greek tragedy, they dialed up the comedy and the pastoral bits. David Quicksall's performance gave sweet comic relief as Antigonus right up to "Exit pursued by a bear" and as Autolycus after that. Shakespeare gives the Old Shepherd's son no name other than "Clown," and Mark Oram brought clowning skills aplenty. I thoroughly enjoyed the original, live music provided by Sean Patrick Taylor. And I appreciated what they did with the staging and costuming to dramatize the falsely accused queen Hermione's plight, giving birth in prison and being called too soon after to stand trial (costume designer K.D. Schill). Not at all nice. 

Like many of Shakespeare's plays, there are some characters who seem mostly types fulfilling their narrative/dramatic function, and other characters around them who make things really interesting. The most interesting characters to me are Paulina, Polixenes, and Camillo—the ones who must live with, respond to, and conform themselves to the actions of the king Leontes, his queen Hermione, and the next generation, Perdita and Florizel. The actors playing these three characters did not disappoint, drawing out the conflict and humanity of people loyal by family or duty to Leontes, who's bollocksed everything up. In particular, Therese Diekhans' feisty performance as Paulina gave the play spice and flavor, spark and heat. Mike Dooly as Polixenes and Nick Rempel as Camillo were as fascinating to watch when they weren't speaking lines as when they were, showing us throughout the bewilderment and confusion of men struggling with their principles and their loss in the face of being let down by those they love most.

I guess the Weisenheimer is right. It's not my favorite Shakespeare play. But enjoying Wooden O's production and getting a new perspective on the play, especially the Paulina and Polixenes characters...sitting outside on a lovely (if sprinkly) Seattle summer day with a picnic, a Dante's Inferno dog, and the exactly where I wanted to be.

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