Shakespeare At Stinson:
By Jeff Smith
San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
†† Having survived the combined assaults of penury, chaos, bureaucracy, schism and sundry Philistines, Shakespeare at Stinson has reached the ripe old, improbable, age of ten.† Against all odds and amid rancorous, seemingly sustained discord, over 45,000 tickets have been sold and 29 productions completed on the various evolutions of the Spartan, minimalist Stinson stage.
†† Despite the obstacles and challenges, miraculously, when the curtain rises for any Stinson performance, all evidence of the ensuing fray is completely swept away.† Invariably the audience is thoroughly transported and entertained by Shakespeare: the playwright who refuses to be diminished either by time or by civic strife.
†† Within the ever changing landscape of the Shakespeare at Stinson theatrical compound, this season boldly opened with PERICLES.† It is a tale set in the Levant: the eastern Mediterranean.† Much like Shakespeare at Stinson, the story of PERICLES is richly strewn with vacillating fortune, tempests, treachery, deceit and sorrow.† Likewise, PERICLES ends with the redemptive victory of steadfast virtue. Parents beware, PERICLES is lightly seasoned with bawdy humor and just a smidgeon of incest.† As usual Shakespeare's most lascivious messages are primly veiled, to wit, "She is able to freeze the god Priapus, and undo a whole generation."
†† Award winning director Kenneth Kelleher hones and polishes his cast to their finest edges yet he preserves the intended rusticity of the original play.† By keeping his cast of talented players diminutive, Mr. Kelleher creates the feeling that his production is the performance of an errant theater troupe staging improvisational Shakespeare in the courts, banquet halls and dining rooms of Elizabethan England.
†† Ten actors and actresses‚ "equipped with rudimentary props and costumes, on a barren stage‚" are resourcefully cast, recast and recast again into the nearly thirty roles called for in Shakespeare's original dramatis personae.† As the setting and action of the play hop-scotch from Antioch, to Tyre, to Tarsus, Pentapolis, Ephesus and Mytilene, familiar faces continue to reappear.† But, as the play's narrator, Gower, informs the audience in the prologue, this play is the retelling of a story or the re-singing of a song, i.e. "to sing a song that old was song."† PERICLES is story telling; not drama in the traditional sense.
†† Stinson stalwarts Drew Anderson and Kalli Jonsson bring conspicuous experience and talent to the stage. †Their meticulous articulation, careful timing and chiseled pronunciations render the script's poetic Elizabethan English easily decipherable for all audiences.
†† Choreographer Mary Beth Cavanaugh, another Stinson veteran, is stylistically on the mark: yet her dancers lack the commensurate passion and elan to rise above the mere mechanics of dance.† When King Simonides witnesses the dance of his daughter Thaisa with Pericles, the script calls for him to be so impressed by their mutual passions that he immediately insists they wed.† As performed, their dispassionate dance reveals almost no chemistry between Pericles and Thaisa.† Their tepid movements are more indicative of couples counseling than matrimony.
†† The lighting designs of Jim Gross, literally slice through the indigenous fog and sea mist of Stinson. Jim's Klieg beacons bring the action into focus and substantially enhance the drama of the entire production.
†† While much of the original Shakespeare at Stinson infrastructure has disappeared, the new ecologically sensitive theater grounds are more spacious and include such amenities picnic tables for early arrivals.† Artist director Jeffrey Trotter, claims that since he no longer encroaches on Easkoot Creek, both the Sockeye and Chinook salmon are running again.† Be warned however: until Mr. Trotter gets fire code compliant radiant heaters like the Sand Dollar, climate control is left to the individual.† Mukluks may be more appropriate than Birkenstocks and down-filled parkas may prevail over tank tops.† Show times are 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 6 p.m. on Sunday.† For user friendly Shakespeare at fiscally friendly prices, call the box office at 415 868-1115 (and oh yeah, hit the pound sign if you are willing to forego Jeffrey Trotter's prolix prologue).