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Arts & Culture

Ashland Review: Pericles

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Photo by Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
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REVIEW OF PERICLES

by Dorothy Velasco

March 10, 2015

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s spring season, in its 80th year, offers a lavish theatrical bounty. Perhaps the most surprising is the splendid production of Shakespeare’s “Pericles” in the Thomas Theatre.

“Pericles” was one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays during his lifetime, but since then scholars have given it a bum rap, saying the bard didn’t write the first part of the play.

Whoever wrote it, in this production directed by Joseph Haj it’s a marvel. The play presents a world of enchantment in which life is a journey through rough seas resulting in shipwrecks and heartbreaking losses. And pirates!

In the case of Pericles, the prince of Tyre, he loses his beloved wife in childbirth, and later his daughter Marina. But in this romance, rich in humor as well as pathos, the long-suffering prince, a good man who has done no harm, finally finds happiness.

It’s easy to empathize with Pericles, especially as played by the engaging Wayne Carr. Like Odysseus, he confronts characters of all types as he travels the Mediterranean.

With original music and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Jack Herrick, the show is nearly a musical. Pericles sings hauntingly of being at the mercy of the wind and the waves. Spectacular projections show us those terrifying waves.

The talented actors play multiple roles, as well as musical instruments. Armando Duran as Gower the storyteller sings parts of the tale. Brooke Parks plays the lovely wife of Pericles and the evil queen who plots to kill Marina, played by Jennie Greenberry. Michael Hume portrays a statesman, a fisherman and the madam of a brothel. Scott Ripley is a good king, a bad king and the madam’s sleazy husband. It’s fun for actors and audience alike.

The artful scenic design is by Jan Chambers, and Francesca Talenti created the video projections.

“Pericles” will play until November 1, but buy your tickets soon. The Thomas Theatre is small, and word of mouth is already touting its merits.

After all, many plays make us laugh, some make us cry, but those that make us laugh and cry are precious.

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