“Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” directed by Caprice Woolsey for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, has just finished the single weekend of presentation. The production was the OSP “Bare Bard” event, using minimal sets and costumes from stock in the Freede Theater at the Civic Center Music Hall. “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” is the perfect show to sandwich between the “Macbeth” and “Antony and Cleopatra” for an exciting 30th season.
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“Pericles, Prince of Tyre” is one of the most capricious and curious of Shakespeare’s romances. The play, commonly titled simply “Pericles” was probably written around 1607 (accurate dating of Shakespearean works is virtually impossible) and there is some controversy regarding authorship. Collaboration was quite common in this area, and therefore another playwright may have contributed to “Pericles.”
“Pericles” is full of twists and turns with numerous small scenes and many varied locations making direction quite a challenge. Not everyone who is trusted is trustworthy and not everyone who dies stays dead. There are storms at sea, pirates, procurers, pimps, and others doers of nefarious deeds. Woolsey wisely used the minimal costuming and set design to highlight her cast, allowing the actors to rely on their talents to create mood and mystery. Pericles, seeking a bride, solves a riddle to win the hand of a princess utterly unworthy of him—and his solution places him at risk, so he flees Tyre, leaving governance of the city in the capable hands of his loyal friend, Helicanus. He has many adventures, as do all who associate with him, and he does find a bride in Thaisa and become a father to Marina—but there is a shipwreck, and his bride is lost. He places his infant daughter in the hands of another local ruler and returns to Tyre. Many years later, he hears that his daughter is dead and goes mad. At the end, everyone lives happily ever-Shakespearean-after.
This rather soap-opera-ish story is a huge task to direct, but Woosley meets the challenge by starting with a good cast. Ian Maryfield is Pericles, and he makes his over-the-top character plausible. The narrator/chorus, played by Aaron Gooden, is called Gower; Shakespeare used the name of an important poet for the chorus to provide credibility. Gooden ably ties the pieces of the story together. With these two roles providing some connection to reality, the “fairy tale” director Woolsey speaks of in her Program Notes is realized.
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