By Alexa Chipman
August 2, 2018
Romantic escapades and daring sea voyages surround the rarely performed ‘Pericles’ with assassins, pirates, bold heroes and true love. It is the theater equivalent of an action adventure blockbuster, with a ‘Flash Gordon’ theme of strange worlds and science fiction props. The protagonist is searching for a partner to rule with him, encountering unique civilizations and cultural expectations of leadership, from savage dictators to fainthearted monarchs.
He confronts the best and worst of humanity, which nearly breaks his spirit. Persevering in spite of adverse circumstances, Pericles finds strength through trusting those he cares for. The whirlwind journey through worlds and shipwrecks gives the plot a chaotic impression, but Dameion Brown as Pericles anchors it in a powerful, hopeful figure who refuses to give in to the turmoil surrounding him. “I do not fear the storm” he states, gazing defiantly at the night sky.
‘Pericles’ is most likely a collaboration between William Shakespeare and George Wilkins. Published in quarto, rather than being included in the First Folio, it has been dissected by scholars, who believe that Wilkins is primarily responsible for the first half of the play, and Shakespeare for the remaining scenes. Director Lesley Schisgall Currier has augmented the fantastical elements and draws inspiration from current politics with an amusing scene of irate fishermen sporting “Make Pentapolis Great Again” mottos as they bluster at Pericles, who has washed ashore as an accidental immigrant.
A core ensemble takes on multiple roles, depending on the location, leaning heavily on costume designer Merissa Mann to clarify who they are portraying. She uses color, fabric weight and silhouettes to give each kingdom its own aesthetic. Tyre is soft, filled with lavender and dove gray, contrasting with Antioch’s harsh black and magenta with stiff satin and BDSM references. Composer Clint Bajakian’s symphonic score soars through ‘Pericles’ and Jackson Currier’s intergalactic set design of swirling stars dominated by a golden throne.
Melancholy musings on life and a rich thread of forgiveness speak to the maturity of Shakespeare’s later career, leading to a scene of piercing beauty when Pericles is reunited with his daughter. Kathryn Smith-McGlynn (Thaisa) and Eliza Boivin (Marina) do not flinch when facing danger, yet demonstrate a vulnerability that prevents them from becoming one-dimensional. Rod Gnapp’s Helicanus has to convince the audience that he is trustworthy within the space of a few lines, and manages to do so with wisdom and poise.
“By hope I live” Pericles writes as his motto in a tournament, and they are not empty words. ‘Pericles’ at Marin Shakespeare is a rush of daring exploits, jeopardy, and surprisingly perceptive ideology.
4 of 5 Stars
Presented through August 5, 2018
Thurs/Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 4:00pm
Marin Shakespeare Company
Forest Meadows Amphitheatre
890 Belle Ave, San Rafael, 94901
Photos by Jay Yamada.