The Adventures of Pericles
By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Elle McLaughlin
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Starring John P. Keller, Dameka Hayes, and Gracie Winchester
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL
What makes a good king? Is it justice? Social stability? A strong external defense? How about…just showing up for work occasionally? King Pericles (Keller) has more frequent sailor points than days on the the job; thank goodness for his trusted and unambitious regent Helicanus (Richard Watson). Helicanus keeps the light on, the trash picked up and sends out regular expeditions to save peripatetic Pericles from himself and other monsters of the deep. First Pericles heads up the coast to get a wife (Sara Sommerwell); she’s hot, and she’s hot for daddy Antiochus (Greg Thorton) and that’s still creepy, even by Daily Mail standards. After Pericles ticks off Antiochus by not getting beheaded, he’s off on a mileage run around the eastern Mediterranean. First there’s a charity trip to Tarsus, then a ship wreck near Pentapolis where he’s soon in a jousting match and wins a much safer wife Thaisa (Dameka Hayes), then off Ephesus by way of another near marine disaster, he misplaces his infant daughter Marina (Winchester) and ends up a brothel in Mytilene that’s low on hookers, but packed with coincidences. And how are things back home in Tyre? The place nearly runs itself. Hardly needs a king, really.
While this road trip might sound confusing, the adaptation by Ms. McLaughlin transforms the bard’s century old verbal constructs and put them in contemporary English while preserving the rhythm, meter and emotional punch that contemporary audiences can comprehend. Comic scenes with Brad DePlanche and Mr. Watson, and later in the brothel with Lisa Wolpe and Greg Thornton punctuate the drama with laughter, and Keller’s Pericles seems like a really nice, well-meaning guy who can think on his feet but who really ought to be in sales. Ms. Wolpe really finds her comic center in the brothel as it’s Madam; here she’s sharp, snappy and a good match for Mr. DePlanche. The set, while relatively simple, makes good use of the trap as does the companion “Tempest” with smoke and bodies in constant motion. Up above the masses Diana, Goddess of the Hunt (Kimmi Johnson) does a nice job of acting a statue even if her headdress might confuse Joseph Campbell. The script brings in the Narrator Gower (Joe Vincent) at every scene break; this more than anything keeps the plot clear and focused. While “Pericles” is never categorized as a comedy, it does meet the “no one important dies” test. Director Helsinger brings out the humor inherent in the human condition, whether it’s the clouded of de-bodied heads in Antioch or the burst of pirates near Ephesus. Extremely enjoyable and action packed, here’s your blockbuster for this year’s season of Serious Shakespearian Theatre.
For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org