written by William Shakespeare
music composed by Shaun Davey
Featuring Christian Camargo
Directed by Trevor Nunn
Theatre for a New Audience
March 22, 2016
💉💉💉 out of 5
I walked into the theatre and was immediately blown away. The theatre was set up as a 3/4 thrust. This is always one of the most exciting features of this theatre. Taking up the entire upstage wall is an ocular or large circular medallion that was backlit and seemed to glow. This ocular must have been 40’ in diameter. There was nothing else on stage – – just this big medallion. Wow!
Then the show started. From the first moment I was just not sure that this was written by Shakespeare. I felt like I need to check my program. I was so missing all of the beautiful poetic illusions and heightened romantic language. I was waiting to hear some of those wonderful lines that have been preserved in our contemporary language. Where were all of the great memorable monologues that are associated with all of Shakespeare’s others plays? It just sounded all so pedantic. After doing a bit of research (quickly at the intermission), I found that scholars agree that the first act of Pericles may have been written by someone else, and only the second half of the play resembles Shakespeare. Many people find Shakespeare difficult to understand – – but imagine when the language isn’t WORTH understanding – – then we are stuck!
The plot of this thing is just all over the map: two shipwrecks, prostitution, many, many sea journeys, incest, pirates and a goddess or two. As the New York Times said in its review of this seldom produced play, Pericles is cleary “much ado about too many things.” What stuck me most is that the protagonist, Pericles (Christian Camargo) just didn’t do much. It wasn’t until the very end of the play that he even had a mission. He liked a woman here and there. He saved a village or two. He spent a LOT of time on boats but I didn’t care about him. What was he working for? What conflict was he overcoming? Granted he faced a great tragedy and a great celebration at the end of the story – but that was the very end of the story. Until then, I just lost interest in his story. Clearly Christian Camargo (of the highly accredited Hamlet) did some mighty fine acting – I guess – it was hard to say.
Act 1 was painful with no story and no poetry and not much to look at with stage pictures and theatrical magic – -but all was not lost. Act 2 became quite beautiful and stage pictures began to take your breath away. Shakespeare’s language began to infuse the experience and the plot actually had some conflict. Now, I was getting my money’s worth!