Wednesday, November 16, 2016

DelShakes' Pericles on Tour --- A Perfect Choice

Jamal Douglas (Pericles/Ensemble) and 
Bi Jean Ngo (Thaisa/Ensemble) perform at the
Achievement Center of the Wilmington HOPE Commission. 
Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
By Christine Facciolo

Pity the director that has to stage a production of Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Dramaturgically speaking, it’s a train wreck. In fact, scholars agree that the play was largely written not by the Bard but by a collaborator — and a hack at that. The plot is a meandering one that includes an incestuous king, two tempests at sea, marauding pirates, a maiden sold into a bordello and a reunion between said maiden and the father who thought her long dead. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a reunion between that self-same father and the wife he also thought long dead. Little wonder it’s so rarely performed.

But for David Stradley, it was the perfect choice. Stradley is producing artistic director of the Delaware Shakespeare Festival, which is smack-dab in the middle of a statewide community tour that has already taken it to some pretty unconventional venues, including the Ferris School for Boys and the Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington as well as the Stockley Center in Georgetown. The company is also slated to perform at the Delaware Psychiatric Center and the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institute.

It’s all about life’s journey and how we cope with everything life throws at us, Stradley told the audience prior to Sunday’s matinee performance at the Delaware History Museum in downtown Wilmington. Those who persevere will, like some of the characters in the play, reap the benefits. He noted how well that theme resonated with some of the at-risk populations the company has visited.

The plot goes like this: Pericles must flee for his life from the murderous King Antiochus. After being shipwrecked, Pericles finds his true love, the beautiful Princess Thaisa, who isn’t long for this life — or is she? The action spans fourteen years, but the ensemble, as omniscient narrator, keeps us abreast of Pericles’ hectic escapades throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.

L-R: Trevor Fayle (Lysimachus/Ensemble), 
Jamal Douglas (Pericles/Ensemble), Danielle LeneĆ© 
(Helicanus/Ensemble, in background), 
J Hernandez (Cleon/Ensemble), 
Corinna Burns (Dionyza/Ensemble). 
Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
Stradley tackles this omnishambles of a play with a cheeky production that features wit and zest. Ashley SK Davis supplies an amazing fight scene executed with precision by this acrobatic ensemble. David Meyer provides a minimalist set that supports the action but is portable and readily adaptable to the venue. Musician/composer Joe Trainer effectively set the mood, creating tension and underscoring the theme. Cast member Ruby Wolf’s violin provides a very pleasant, if unexpected, addition.

The performers are first-rate. Bi Jean Ngo shows versatility playing an oily assassin and the noble and sublime Princess Thaisa. Danielle Lenee imbues Helicanus with a quiet and stately grace. Ruby Wolf imparts a common-sense wisdom to the pluperfect Marina. Corinna Burns and J Hernandez are all grace and gratitude as Dionyza and Cleon which contrasts wonderfully with their turns as the Pandar and Bawd for which Hernandez dons an appropriately godawful red wig. Jamal Douglas as the titular hero must deliver a more restrained performance but does occasionally cash in on the silliness with revealing facial gestures.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre may not be a perfect piece of theater, but it’s good entertainment and it does deliver an important message of perseverance to anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of one of life’s curve balls. And that’s most of us.

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