AISLE SAY San Francisco


by William Shakespeare
Presented by California Shakespeare Theater
Directed by Joel Sass
Bruns Memorial Amphitheater
Orinda, CA / (510) 548-9666

Reviewed by Judy Richter

There's something magical about going to California Shakespeare Theater. Even when the fog starts to roll in, the wind comes up and the temperature goes down, the outdoor theater's magnificent background of rolling golden hills casts a spell. Furthermore, artistic director Jonathan Moscone's choices for each season seldom disappoint.

All of the above applies to this season's opening production, William Shakespeare's "Pericles." Guest director Joel Sass uses only eight actors (plus a four-member ensemble) playing multiple roles. They tell the tale of a prince who wins his wife, loses her in childbirth, gives his newborn daughter to friends to care for, learns later that they've supposedly killed her, but eventually is reunited with both wife and daughter. Magic, coincidence and the rewards of virtue all play a role in a drama that takes its characters and audience on a voyage to many Mediterranean lands.

Imaginative designs provide guideposts to those lands. Set designer Melpomene Katakalos has created a desert-like setting strewn with pillows, oriental rugs and an arching tree trunk along with dry grasses and sand. Costumes by Raquel M. Barreto yield more visual clues not only of place but also of character, as actors shift in and out of roles.One concern for the actors, though: They're all barefoot, which can't be much fun on cold nights.

Vocal and text coach Lynne Soffer helps with accents that vary according to locale. The work of lighting designer Russell H. Champa and sound designer Jeff Mockus provides some terrific effects, especially the storms that wrack Pericles' ship. Completing the aural effects is the music of Greg Brosofske. Marybeth Cavanaugh, movement director, creates the dance scenes.

All of this design work would be for naught without a talented, nimble cast. Fortunately, this production has one, starting with Christopher Kelly as the noble Pericles, among other roles. Shawn Hamilton opens the show as Gower, the wise old narrator who sings the introduction. Ron Campbell's roles range from the incestuous King Antiochus to a grass-skirt wearing fisherman. Sarah Nealis is seen as Antiochus' daughter as well as Marina, Pericles' daughter. Alex Morf's roles range from Antiochus' evil henchman to Leonine, the governor who's won over by Marina's virtue and then wins her hand. Danny Scheie is seen as the wise old Helicanus and the bawdy Boult. Domenique Lozano also plays both good and evil characters, as does Delia MacDougall, first seen as Thasia, Pericles' wife, and later as a bawd in a fat suit. A four-member ensemble also appears in many roles, starting as tigers in Antiochus' court.

The production clocks in at about three hours with intermission, but thanks to the skillful work of everyone involved, it moves quickly. It also signals an auspicious start to the season.

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