Monday, December 7, 2015

THE WINTER’S TALE by William Shakespeare

William Dennis Hunt is an old friend.  It is because of his pioneer vision that The Company Theatre of Los Angeles became a cause celeb many years ago holding forth in a magical space on Robertson Boulevard.  I am grateful to The Company for many things.  So..  with that said.. Bill has taken a plunge!  It’s the Bard!  It’s one of his plays that most of us know little about.  THE WINTER’S TALE! (Emphasis mine.)

Return with us now to those dusty days of when kings and queens roamed the hills and nonsense was afoot.  Remembering the names of King Leontes of Sicilia (Max Lawrence) and his old pal King Polixenes visiting from Bohemia (Allen Barstow) has been tough as I’ve discussed this show with friends. What Shakespeare had in mind is confusing and frustrating because his basic elements are in here somewhere and Director Hunt in a creative way has done his best to ferret them out.  Motivation for the action of this play in Act I is cloudy at best, though the actors are working their tails off to get through the language, and accomplish this with some success. 

The Other Space is not unlike many intimate little theaters in town.  Forty seats, simple lighting. A black box.  As we enter, the cast is on stage sort of chatting.  It was unclear if this was an actors warm up or if the characters were just having a little get together before the show actually began.  This is a young company and the energy for the play is palpable.  A good thing.

Leontes has been entertaining his friend from childhood, Polixenes as a guest in Sicilia.  Polixenes doesn’t want to overstay his welcome and announces that it’s time to head for home.   Leontes persuades his pregnant wife, Hermione (very lovely Carolyn Marie Wright) to coax Polixenes to linger a little while longer.  For reasons that are unclear, Leontes becomes mad with jealousy and orders his retainer, Camillo (Taylor Jackson Ross) to poison his old pal because he’s decided that Hermione’s unborn child is Polixenes and not his!  He denounces his wife and trouble's afoot! 

Camillo decides that the king must be nuts and tells Polixenes she is supposed to poison him! They run away poste haste! Following the plot here becomes troublesome. Hermione delivers a daughter.  Hermione ‘dies’ and the “bastard” daughter, Perdita (appearing in Act II as a young maiden, Hayley Brown) is taken away in a basket by Antigonus and left on the shore of Bohemia (shades of Snow White).  What ever got into Leontes to make him go off his rocker is unclear.  Even with my program in hand, telling who was who after this with doubling and tripling makes it impossible to report specific performances.

ACT II..  “Time” (Played by producer Hannah Pell) announces at rise that sixteen years have passed! Perdita, having been been raised by the generous Old Shepherd (Frank Weidner who, as Antigonus, was eaten by the bear at the end of Act I) is now sixteen.  Highlight of the show is the appearance of the scallywag, Autolycus (excellent Olivia Buntaine) who brings the second half to life with her pickpocketing skills, skullduggery and mandolin virtuosity.  Cute!   

Suffice it to say that all’s well that ends well, with Leontes coming to Bohemia, making amends with his old pal, Polixenes as Polixenes son, Florizel (Roman Guastaferro) has fallen in love with Perdita, Hermione ‘comes back to life’ and la dee dah. 

This is a noble effort. Hunt and his young cast deserve an audience and applause, though the twists and turns of Shakespeare’s wonky plot would be impossible to follow were it not for a thorough perusal of a synopsis before heading down to the theater! 

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
Directed by William Dennis Hunt
Mine is Yours Theatre Company

The Actors Company/ The Other Space
               916 A North Formosa Ave
               West Hollywood, CA 90046

Friday 12/4 at 8:00PM
              Saturday 12/5 at 8:00PM
              Sunday 12/6 at 2:00PM
              Friday 12/11 at 8:00PM
              Saturday 12/12 at 8:00PM
              Sunday 12/13 at 2:00PM

$18 general admission
                 $10 w/code BEAR