AISLE SAY San Francisco


by William Shakespeare
Conceived by Mark Wing-Davey with Jim Calder
Directed by Mark Wing-Davey
Presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Thrust Stage
2025 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 647-2949

Reviewed by Judy Richter

"Pericles, Prince of Tyre" is one of Shakespeare's later plays and, according to most scholars, probably wasn't written entirely by him. Director Mark Wing-Davey goes a step further by reconceiving this work, with movement consultant Jim Calder, for Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Wing-Davey cuts text and characters to clarify the story of Pericles (David Barlow). This nobleman flees Antioch in fear of his life after realizing that the king and his daughter, whose hand Pericles was pursuing, were involved in an incestuous relationship.

Pericles' travels take him through stormy seas to far flung places such as Pentapolis. There he wins the hand of Thaïsa (Jessica Kitchens), daughter of the king (James Carpenter). On their return voyage to Tyre, Thaïsa dies while giving birth to a daughter, Marina. Many more adventures separately await father and daughter, who has been given to the care of the governor of Tarsus.

Ultimately, the distraught Pericles believes that both his wife and his daughter are dead, but in true Shakespearean fashion, they're reunited by coincidence.

All this takes place on a two-level industrial set created by Peter Ksander and Douglas Stein with lighting by Bradley King. Three musicians, including composer/music director Marc Gwinn, sit on one side of the upper level.

Except for Barlow as Pericles and Anita Carey as Gower, who serves as the chorus and a trusted lord of Tyre, everyone else in the eight-member cast plays three or more roles. Thanks to Meg Neville's often-ingenious costumes, the characters are easy to identify.

The two-act production runs about two hours plus intermission. It starts with music director Gwinn and the cast, in street clothes, warming up the audience with a sing-along.

Wing-Davey has come up with some wildly theatrical stagings. However, some of it seems excessive and distracting. For example, during the shipwreck scene, Carey's Gower soaks the actors with a steady stream of water from a fire hose aimed above them.

Despite fine acting, especially by Barlow, Kitchens, Carpenter and Carey, the production sometimes lags. Still, it's a notable attempt to make one of Shakespeare's lesser works more accessible and palatable.

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