There is a pure joy that comes with busting one’s behind on a hard plastic chair in the depths of an industrial space to see the Independent Shakespeare Company’s work. I always thought that “agitprop” meant that one took whatever was at hand and made art from it. Well, I was wrong. It has to do with the political aspect of art or theatre that artists make a statement with. I was headed off into a land of review of the Independent Shakespeare Company’s wonderful production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre by Wm S with a boost from George Wilkins (1576 – 1518), not only did my misconception of “agitprop” get me off on the wrong foot, but I am not enough of a scholar to have ever heard of Mr. Wilkins! His history is a mixed bag that includes his being a minor dramatist of the Times but also ran a brothel where Shakespeare would hang out. Thus, this play may be a collaboration.
|André Martin as Pericles |
PHOTO CREDIT: Grettel Cortes
Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a fantastical tale that may turn a bit on Homer’s epic tale of Ulysses. The twists and turns are each and all presented beautifully by a tiny cast doubling and tripling to whirl poor Pericles from one situation to another with logic that certainly is clear to Wilkins and the Bard, but between adjusting to the actors’ dedication to the language (all trippingly tongued with imaginative action nicely directed by MELISSA CHALSMA), you really need a program to figure out who’s who. This is not to criticize because the action moves a pace and the actors are so adept that even losing the thread now and then doesn’t much matter.
The ISC is famous for their Shakespeare in the Park presentations. However, tonight, we now file into the rehearsal space, scene shop, wardrobe department, and offices and performance space for the Company. Emphasis is on Company because unlike fancy schmancy programs at other theatres, ISC cranks out what could be mimeographed programs lovingly typed on a typewriter that simply list the facts. To me, this is endearing because Budget is always an issue for these intimate theatre companies. Had this company been forced to pay minimum wage for this show with seven actors and an Equity stage manager, the approximate costs at the current AEA edict of $9.00 an hour would have been in excess of $7,000 not including taxes, P and H, etc. etc., just to get to opening night with an audience of about 35! But I digress. This Company includes everyone and this diverse cast with creative costumes by Houri Mahserejian lists their names simply and directly with Director Melissa Chalsma listed last!
Andrè Martin as Pericles convinces us of his dedication not only as an actor to the role, but drags us kicking and screaming through the trials and tribulations of the young man off to find adventure. Here’s the tricky part. The protean cast is changing characters so quickly that it might be a good thing for them to have team numbers that would let the audience know who’s who as the Prince travels from his escape from Antioch to Tyre and on to Tarsus and then to SomethingOpolis and on and on, eventually back to Tyre. Kalean Ung is amazing as Marina, enchanting with her singing voice also acting as Chorus/Narrator opening the play and closing it beautifully. The attempt to figure out the rest of the company and their roles got lost as I was drawn into the story. Here they are. All Company Members who, thanks to fine directing and their own excellent skills brought to life over twenty characters. Director, also acting: Melissa Chalma, Christina Frias, Daniel Jimenez, Nikhil Pai, Evan Lewis Smith, Kalean Ung, and Andrè Martin. It’s clear that these company members are dedicated to the work. Do your own research about the story. It’s a quest, a tragedy, a comedy and almost a history that may get lost from time to time in the details, but over all is a real treat. Okay, Helicanus might step back from his old age a little, but he was old when Pericles took off from Tyre and left him in charge, I guess, but that’s just a gray note. This is an excellent production that will charm the pants off an appreciative audience. Read a synopsis and bring a pillow.
PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE
By William Shakespeare and George Wilkins
The Independent Shakespeare Company
3191 Casitas Avenue #168
Los Angeles, CA
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM (Note the curtain time!)
Sundays at 2PM
Through May 24, 2015
Tickets and Information:
818 710 6306