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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE WINTER’S TALE
at Shakespeare & Company

NEITHER COMEDY NOR TRAGEDY
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Wolfe Coleman, Kelly Galvin, Wolfe Coleman, Leia Espericueta, Andy Talen, Jason Asprey, Dana Harrison, Shea Kelly/ Ph: Kevin Sprague

The Winter’s Tale, one of Shakespeare’s hybrid “romances,” is one crazy exercise in yin-yang. It’s as if the playwright, tired of keeping comedy and tragedy at arm’s length, decided to let them arm-wrestle instead. It takes considerable finesse to lend sufficient strength to each component so as to make them mesh well, however, and Kevin G. Coleman’s version at Shakespeare & Company flags at each end.
 
Jonathan Epstein makes an ideal King Leontes. With his supple voice and palpable intelligence, he probes every festering recess of a man determined to repudiate the taint of cuckoldry, hang the cost. He’s nicely matched by the calmly magisterial presence of Johnny Lee Davenport as King Polixenes, a lifelong friend and ally whose innocent chumminess with Leontes’ consort, Hermione (Elizabeth Aspenleider), sets off a tragic chain of events. Also outstanding is Corinna May as Hermione’s outspoken friend and defender.
 
Costume designer Kara D. Midlam’s choice of the Regency era makes for some pretty stage pictures but, alas, undoes Aspenleider’s best efforts to make us feel for the blameless queen. She’s got up in an elaborate, immovable Beverly Sills-style coif that somehow manages to withstand the rigors of imprisonment, while the rest of her is reduced to bare feet and grimy rags.
 
The comico-pastoral portion of the play fares better, thanks in large part to the finesse of two home-grown jesters (offspring of S & Co. founding members): sly, incisive Jason Asprey as the peddler/pickpocket Autolycus and rubber-limbed Wolfe Coleman as the hapless, gullible Young Shepherd. As Perdita, the latter’s adopted-foundling sister, Kelly Galvin unfortunately delivers her lines like a wind-up doll.
 
A little country dancing goes a long way, and director Coleman takes a spate of inter-shepherdess rivalry too far in having one attack the other in a rather shocking manner. In every other respect this is passable family fare, since accusations of “bed-swerving” will – one can only hope – fly right over young ones’ heads. And only a child would fall for Shakespeare’s “magical” ending, no more convincing here than on any other stage over the past four centuries.

 


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