By Diana SaengerShakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale,” written during his later years, has often been called his problem play as it evokes many questions about its structure from theater professionals. The Old Globe Theatre’s current production has a new musical score by Michael Torke, and is directed with a dash of novel fantasy, by Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein.
“While she lives my heart will be a burden to me,” mournfully utters the King of Sicilia, Leontes, in the opening act. At a social gathering Leontes (Billy Campbell) watches his wife, Hermione (Natacha Roi), appear a little too friendly with his friend, Polixenes, King of Bohemia (Paul Michael Valley). Leontes instantly turns into a ranting and raving mad man, and eventually orders his pregnant wife be put to death, along with his young son, Mamillius (Jordi Bertran).
As Leontes continues to astonish his guests with his outbursts, Hermione’s close friend, Paulina (Angel Desai), attempts to calm “her lord” down. She tries to convince Leontes that he’s wrong about Hermione being unfaithful, and that her children are truly his. Even when a report from the oracle arrives telling Leontes none of the things he speaks of is true, Leontes refuses to listen.
After tragedies, the plot shifts to Bohemia where a different point of view is presented. There’s a goofy bit of song and dance, and a fast-talking Autolycus (Paul Kandel), a chameleon-like thief able to talk his way in and out of one bit of trouble after another.
This is also where we learn that, long ago, Leontes also ordered his baby daughter, Perdita (Maya Kazan), to be left in a bundling to be eaten by animals. Instead, the Old Shepherd (Mark Nelson) rescued her. Now, years later, she’s become a lovely young woman about to be engaged to Prince Florizel (A.Z. Kelsey), son of Polixenes.
Working with a cast of 20 is no easy feat, but superb direction produced excellent performances. Campbell oozes hatred so strong it makes you want to go up and shake him into reality. Roi comes off exactly as you’d imagine any woman in her predicament would behave. The young actors all perform well; Desai is a standout, and Kandel is a bundle of laughs.
There’s a scene in the middle of the show about “time” that makes little sense and adds nothing to the delicious plot. However, the superb scenic design by Wilson Chin transports the audience from one place to another as easily as a blink of an eye. In addition, Edelstein’s expert knowledge of this genre and play make it quite entertaining, even if a bit of it seems superfluous.
“The Winter’s Tale”
When:Matinees, evenings to March 16
Where:The Old Globe Theatre’s Shiley Stage, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego in Balboa Park
Tickets: From $29
Box Office: (619) 234-5623