The experience I was about to enter when I walked into the theater to see Pericles in Saint Louis took place in one of the most unique and diverse atmospheres I have ever encountered. The stage was blank up front, and towards the back of the stage there is a rock arch. It could be walked on or through. The backdrop was a screen, which changed to display different flags and scenes with the plot. Everyone was buzzing with excitement until lights dimmed and music stopped. This performance really impressed me because The Black Rep did an unorthodox rendition of a play that by itself is already extremely challenging and still captured my attention until the very last line.
One of the things that makes Pericles a very tough play to do is its fairytale-like, cliché plot. It can be extremely boring if it is not done with some added twists to liven it up. To conquer this obstacle, Ron Himes, the director, decided the play should be set in the Caribbean. It was a brilliant idea, morphing the story but still retaining it’s morals, as Pericles bounced around coastal cities during his adventures. The different types of people he encountered seemed to have no limit. He restored health to Haiti and was wrecked on the shores of Cuba. Each city was filled with different accents. It mystified the atmosphere in a way that even the bard himself could not have imagined.
Kush and McClain
To tackle the difficulties this rendition of play presents, the actors did not use conventional technique. Because they had to play specialized and adapted parts, standard technique, such as clear projection and facing the audience, would’ve made their roles much tougher. They spit on some of their lines, and did not vary the different heights of actors to create levels. Many scenes in Pericles are filled with jumbled confusion or chaos. Therefore, an organized style of directing would not have worked as well as what, on first glance, seemed to be a jumbled mass of bodies.
McClain twirls for her suitors and father
Each of the players added to the atmosphere Mr. Himes was creating in their own way, each becoming a special piece of the puzzle. Pericles (Ka'ramuu Kush) was very strong-jawed in his take on the wronged prince. Throughout the entire play he seemed conflicted and concerned, mistrusting his surroundings, which, though an unusual take on Pericles, worked well for this performance. In the very first scene someone tried to trap him. Even when in his own court he was shifty. He looked as if he’d been stripped of his ability to trust, and had no more left to share with the world. His haggard appearance after losing his daughter and wife was grizzly, but still a little regal. He still retained a little bit of arch in his spine, as a man who once was great would do when begging for a living. When he begged mere fishermen for food and shelter, his tone vibrated softly, but distinctly. He stood with only a torn pair of pants, but yet filled the room with an air of nobility. Helicanus (Chauncey Thomas), his faithful servant, was precise to the last detail, but still natural and relaxed. He beautifully crafted each line to his purpose. His skillful exactness made his words glide. Marina (Sharisa Whatley) was chaste as could be. She always wore white and when evils were enacted in front of her, she stared in confusion. She couldn’t even comprehend that people would do such things. Her lord, the mayor of New Orleans, was hilarious. He had a different accent for each of his characters including a fisherman and a lord. Also, the wise woman, or doctor, was one of the best character actresses I have seen in any play. She played both the doctor and the goddess Diana. When she was the doctor, she held Thaisa (Patrice McClain), the stricken queen, with a nimble sweetness almost out of a movie. She brushed everyone back and gently awoke the lady. The beauty of her actions out-spoke the beauty of her words.
As a black theater, The Black Rep also has a large African-American following. They’ve cultivated loyal fans, from all races, and their audience was into it though out the entire play. Each member sat transfixed, nodding in approval. The company is centered around diversity, and their play was enhanced greatly by its own diversity. The Black Rep has been performing for a long time and I wouldn’t miss a chance to see them!
McClains coffin and her saviors
McClains coffin and her saviors