Some nights are too rainy. Some nights are too muggy. Some nights are too dark. Some nights are just plain boring. And amongst this variety of nights, every once in a while, there comes one that is just perfect. A perfect night for anything, whether it be watching a sports event, attending a Shakespeare play, or just watching the stars. A night where the clouds cover half the sky, and stars the rest. A night where the moon peeks out every once in a while to bid hello to the earth. This was one of those nights. A night where The Winter’s Tale unfolds inside the Delacorte Theater, and as the music plays, and Hermione speaks, the moon seems to watch with the same intensity as the rest of the park. Quiet.
Hermione, Leontes and Polixenes
In my opinion, the first half of this play, in general, is not as potent as the second half. There just isn’t as much intense material. The opening, and death of Hermione, is moving, but not like her reunion with Leontes. The play is not one of his ‘super-plays’, but it does have some interesting elements. Many say that Hermione does not die, but she is hidden by Paulina, to ensure the Apollo’s prophecy comes true, and also to ensure that Leontes repents fully. I think that if she is hidden, Paulina is both devil and angel; Angel for preserving her life and the prophecy. Devil for keeping Leontes in such pain for sixteen long, painstaken years.
Shepherd and Clown (as gentlemen) with Autolycus
This performance squeezed everything they could out of their bare set. They had basically a wood surface with ten or so trap doors and a glass panel. Basic. But as this play taught me, basic things do not breed boredom. They used it as the deck of a ship, a forest, a garden, a pasture and a palace. The actor strode around the stage so dominantly that it made the dull surface shimmer, and look twice its actual size.
As for the players, Leontes and Polixenes were not as bonded in the early scene as some, but Leontes really came through in the hate speeches, seeming to spit his mind at his wife. Polixenes blew a fuse, showing his pent up anger, when his son disgraced him. Camillo and Paulina were both counterparts, and then fiancées. He was calm and soothing, though never afraid to speak his mind, while she was hot-spoken and angry, often cursing the world. But when the two were united, the audience “bled tears” with them, because they overcame, but did not forget their losses.
Shepherd and Clown
There were two more female leads. Perdita skillfully gushed emotion without becoming screechy. When she was handing out the flowers, she sobbed without screaming or wildly screeching. She and Floritzel combined for a powerful duo. Hermione was sweet and kind, though maybe overplaying the role of a goddess a touch too much. She was heavenly in a way that she, in my view, wasn’t meant to be. The Clown and the Shepherd played beautifully the innocence and fearfulness of law that good subjects should have. They were so king in giving Autolycus their gold to tell their story, that even he gave it back and apologized, in a righteous resolution. Autolycus was cunning and devilish.
Though heavily cut. Shakespeare in the Park’s production of The Winter’s Tale was moving and delightful. Tickets go quickly, so don’t miss a chance!
Pictures courtesy of Shakespeare in the Park