Premiere New York Premiere
Production Language English
Country of Origin United States
Description Purity of heart triumphs over corruption in Theatre for a New Audience’s gripping production of Shakespeare’s Pericles. Fable-like in nature, Pericles is a journey-filled romance evoking the mysteries of an ancient Middle East. The most frequently produced play during Shakespeare’s lifetime, Pericles is also one of his most satisfying, a haunting and spiritually restorative work by a master storyteller at his peak.
In a singularly American production, director Bartlett Sher (hailed as “an indispensable interpreter of classics” by Time Out New York for his recent stagings of Cymbeline and Don Juan for Theatre for a New Audience) offers an inventive approach to Pericles. Sher splits the title role, using two actors to portray Pericles’ fourteen-year transformation, as well as double-casting several of the primary roles-dramatic devices that brilliantly underscore the play’s intrinsic symmetries. As well, Sher strips the play of its customary spectacle, suggesting its atmosphere through only essential elements. Translucent curtains flank an aquamarine mosaic floor; live music, based on Greek and Western hymnals, complements the minimalist décor. It’s an approach reminiscent of Peter Brook at his most succinct, and one that beautifully serves the narrative.
And the play’s beginnings are sordid, indeed. An off-scene narrator tells of King Antiochus’ incestuous relationship with his daughter, and of the diabolic riddle he poses to potential suitors. When Prince Pericles’ correct response reveals the awful truth, he flees to escape the avenging king, only to face daunting tribulations of his own-among them, a famine in Tarsus, the shipboard death of his new bride, and his daughter Marina’s enslavement in a brothel. Years later, it is Marina, miraculously reunited with her father, who restores health to the ailing, heartsick Pericles. The tide turns. Depravity and strife give way to honor and tranquility. The arc of the play is complete.
Theatre for a New Audience (Jeffrey Horowitz, Artistic Director), the acclaimed off-Broadway theater company dedicated to revitalizing Shakespeare and other classic drama, marks its 25th anniversary this year.