Los Angeles Theater Review: PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE (A Noise Within in Pasadena)

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by Jesse David Corti on September 17, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


There’s a certain respect lost among most national leaders today, especially here in America, due to the excessive regard for individuals graduated from northeast institutions, and an improper recognition for those who serve in the Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema review of A Noise Within's production of "Pericles" in Pasadena.military— especially those who fight overseas. The last three Presidents of this country have avoided harm’s way most effectively. Obama never served in the Armed forces; he was a perpetual political organizer-campaigner. Bush 43 served in the safety of the National Guard (as a pilot), and Bill Clinton went to great lengths to avoid serving in Vietnam. Perhaps Pericles, the titular warrior Prince in Shakespeare’s play, is far removed from our culture’s frame of reference because the idea of an imperialist ruler simultaneously uniting nations and expanding his collective empire via feats of strength and marriage is not in vogue quite like it was two hundred years or even four hundred years ago when it was written.

Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema review of A Noise Within's production of "Pericles" in Pasadena.The authorship of Pericles is the subject of many scholarly debates. Many agree Pericles is a collaborative text; the more widely accepted view holds that George Wilkins wrote the first half of the text (835 lines) while Shakespeare wrote the last half of the text (827 lines). It was not included with the first quarto of Shakespeare’s texts and retains a mixed critical response throughout the years.

Pericles cares more for marriage and love than he does for conquest and spoils. After a few close calls and brushes with execution, he competes for the hand of Simonedes’ daughter, Thaisa. He vanquishes the other suitors, emerges victorious, marries Thaisa, and heads back to Tyre. Whilst voyaging back home, however, his wife dies in childbirth. Pericles entrusts the babe, Marina, to the care of Dionyza; he gradually falls apart while his daughter grows up. The thrust of the piece is Marina’s journey after being sold by Pirates into a brothel, and whether or not she will reunite with her father in this life.

With incest, shipwrecks, double crosses, famine, wrongful deaths, and seclusion, it is a dark comedy with starkly shifting moods akin to Shakespeare’s other late romances Measure for Measure and The Winter’s Tale. That, along with its episodic nature—there is traveling from province-to-province—has given Pericles the Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema review of A Noise Within's production of "Pericles" in Pasadena.reputation as one of Shakespeare’s lesser works.

However, A Noise Within’s first-rate production presents the story with excellent cohesion, remarkably strong pace, and a tender finale. Pericles, Prince of Tyre, the inaugural production of ANW’s “Lost and Found” 2013-14 season, is deliciously directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott. She and her team of artists effectively execute this epic odyssey of love, death, honor, and restoration, filling it with songs, dances, swordfights, and even “dumb show,” encompassing seven distinct settings over the course of two hours (with a fifteen minute intermission).

The set by Jeanine A. Ringer looks like a rustic and weathered ship’s deck (backdrop and stage) modified with drawers that pop out and doors that open when necessary. Ringer’s pale, sea-foam white set allows Ken Booth’s impressionistic lighting to Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema review of A Noise Within's production of "Pericles" in Pasadena.paint the scenes with distinctive moods and allow each region their specific atmosphere and color palette. Angela Balogh Calin’s costumes allow each province to have their own style: Antiochus of Antioch looks like Louis XIV draped in black down to the heeled shoes, Pericles and the people of Tyre are dressed in early 19th century British longcoats and boots, and primarily in blue, the people of Pentapolis don modern dress with echoes of Victorian era style in bright green with splashes of red, while the silent chorus dressed in white wearing ruff collars and occasionally donned black bowler hats or small white masks; these are some of several examples.

Ken Merckx’ complex fight choreography involving multiple individuals fighting each other at once with swords and lances is well-staged and exciting to watch. Robert Oriol’s music practically makes Pericles a musical with its musical interludes with dance and pantomime, and sung songs throughout the piece; all of it pleasing and still specific to fit the region and peoples who are singing; Tarsus has a Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema review of A Noise Within's production of "Pericles" in Pasadena.brooding, Japanese vibe that involves heavy taiko drumming while Pentapolis has a more traditional American jaunty, hearty feel—it’s this sort of specificity and attention to detail is effective and allows the story to be understood and enjoyed on a more profound level.

All the major players in Pericles are double-cast; Jason Dechert imbues his handsome visage with a graceful dignity as the titular, humble and honorable Young Pericles. A brothel owner Pander, Dechert is slimy and urbane, walking with a limp. Deborah Strang makes grand movements as the narrator Gower, but made little sense of the text. Thankfully the chorus ensemble pantomimed her narration and effectively communicated where Strang, normally the strongest performer of the lot in ANW’s other productions, struggled. However, Strang gives a mesmerizing performance as the magical Lord of Ephesus who discovers Thaisa’s body, Cerimon. Michael Stone Forrest’s turn as Simonedes is mirthful with a capital MIRTH; his powerfully boisterous performance stands out early on.

The pantomiming chorus makes intriguing “dumb show” between scene breaks to illustrate actions and make visual what Gower would orate; an effective means of propelling the piece forward. Jules Willcox is bubbly and effervescent as Thaisa, the daughter of the joyful Simonedes, who weds Pericles. While her performance as the Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema review of A Noise Within's production of "Pericles" in Pasadena.virginal, melancholic Marina, daughter of Pericles, is nuanced and absorbing, especially when delivering arguments against those who aim to strip away her virginity; her strength and grounded sense of resolve command those moments excellently. Thomas Tofel oozes odious repugnance with his portrayal of the narcissistic, incestuous Antiochus. As old Pericles, he executes a complete 180 from Antiochus and radiates refined gentility with exquisite panache; his performance as old Pericles is the crown jewel of this production.

Pericles at ANW is a resounding success because Julia Rodriguez-Elliot coalesces each of its parts—a good script with good writing, top-notch design artists with dazzling contributions, an adroit ensemble executing superb acting performances in concert—to devastating effect. It’s a home-run of a production and a helluva dynamic splash to start their new season. Brava, Julia.

Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema review of A Noise Within's production of "Pericles" in Pasadena.

photos by Craig Schwartz

Pericles: Prince of Tyre
A Noise Within in Pasadena
scheduled to end on November 24, 2013
for tickets, call 626-356-3100 or visit http://www.ANoiseWithin.org

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