This week, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale joined the schedule at Bard On The Beach. Director Dean Paul Gibson, a Bard veteran, has crafted a classic interpretation of the complex play. Part tragedy, part romance, part comedy, the production is divided into two acts, two eras and two locations.
Opening in Sicilia, the simple staging finds five columns serving duty to form the multiple locations within the island. Designer Pam Johnson’s stripped down set allows the graceful Greco-Roman costuming, by Carmen Alatorre, to shine, bringing a regal air to the court of Leontes, King of Sicilia (Kevin MacDonald). Noble woman Paulina, charismatically played by the multiple Jessie Award-winning Lois Anderson, serves as narrator and a central player moving the play through its 16 year narrative. The rest first act plays out like a typical tragedy; lust, jealousy, betrayal, judgement, death all rear their heads.
Act two move ahead 16 years and begins in Bohemia, focusing on the homeland of King Polixenes, also the mood of the play shifts greatly, from the tragic first act. In the rural, free-spirited setting of Bohemia, The Winter’s Tale becomes much lighter and comedic as we meet Autolycus, played by Ben Elliott in a slapstick turn reminiscent of Jim Carrey. The Shepherd and Son also provide lighthearted diversion, from the more romantic act, as do their sheep and farm maids. The Second act also brought music into the production, with Autolycus, Prince Florizel and his beloved Perdita all add songs, to varying effectiveness. Shifting back to Sicily, the final scenes of The Winter’s Tale tie the stories together and bring the play back to the beginning and the end.
While Lois Anderson shines as the anchor of the play, the whole company of The Winter’s Tale fit nicely into their characters and believably carry the regal roles and costumes. While nearly 3 hours, Dean Paul Gibson has kept The Winter’s Tale moving, entertaining and visually appealing that it doesn’t feel long.
The Winter’s Tale alternates with Much Ado About Nothing on the BMO Mainstage at Bard On The Beach until September 22, 2017.