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The Pearl Theatre Company Presents "The Winterís Tale" by William Shakespeare
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The Pearl Theatre Company Presents "The Winterís Tale" by William Shakespeare

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The Pearl Theatre Company
Hal Brooks, Artistic Director
David Staller, Founding Artistic Director


The Winterís Tale
By William Shakespeare

Directed by Michael Sexton

The Pearl Theatre
555 West 42nd Street
NY, NY 10036

Jolly Abraham, Rachel Botchan, Bradford Cover, Steve Cuiffo
Dominic Cuskern, Adam Green, Peter Francis James
Tom Nelis, Imani Jade Powers, James Udom

Scenic Designer: Brett J. Benakis
Costume Designer: Tilly Grimes
Lighting Design: Bradley King
Sound Designer: John D. Ivy
Composer: Raymond Bokhour
Dramaturg: Kate Farrington
Casting Director: Stephanie Klapper Casting
Production Stage Manager: Michael Palmer
Production Manager/Tech. Director: Gary Levinson
Press: Blake Zidell & Associates

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 3, 2015

The Director, Michael Sexton, notes, in a preview email, that he wanted the set and mood to be intimate and realistic, a setting that might be both familial and familiar to the audience. As it was a hugely stormy night, with The Pearl so far west on 42nd Street, perhaps too far for shovels and plows, the scenic design of Shakespeareís The Winterís Tale was cozy, reminiscent of my grandmotherís apartment of yore. Brett Benakisí choice of dark, wooden wardrobe and china cabinet, amongst Victorian dining chairs and a Persian rug, added to the accessible modernity. Moreover, Tilly Grimesí contemporary street clothes gave Jolly Abrahamís (as Hermione) maternity dress a very real, baby-about-to-be-born impression. An ensemble, most of whom are familiar to repeat audiences at The Pearl, included, besides Ms. Abraham, Rachel Botchan (as Paulina), Bradford Cover (as Polixenes), and Dominic Cuskern (as the Shepherd and Antigonus). In addition, ten guest actors joined the production, Steve Cuiffo (as Autolycus), Adam Green (as Clown), Peter Francis James (as Leontes), Tom Nelis (as Camillo), Imani Jade Powers (as Perdita), and James Udom (as Florizel).

As comfortable as the furniture, rug, and costumes were, the plot was equally enigmatic. It certainly would have helped, as in opera, to have a plot synopsis, in clear language, for the general audience. This is a play that unfolds in passing dialogue, and the fragmented innuendo is not framed or highlighted. As an educator, I would recommend concise plot synopses (or the suggestion noted at the end of this review), especially for Shakespeare, as the dialogue is filled with flourish and oblique references. Plus, the first series of scenes are tempestuous and torturous, while the second series of scenes are frolicsome and musical. I did notice the row emptying at intermission, although a storm was brewing.

The 1623 story begins with an unhappy dinner party. A reunion of friends unfolds, for Leontes, King of Sicily, and Polixenes, King of Bohemia, at Leontesí castle. Leontes soon becomes convinced that Hermione, who is about to give birth, is carrying Polixenesí child. Camillo, a Lord in Sicily, leaves with Polixenes for Bohemia, to avoid Leontesí order to poison his old friend. Leontes imprisons Hermione, who bears a daughter. Paulina takes the baby to Leontes for a blessing, and he sends the baby with Lord Antigonus to the woods for abandonment. Thereís also an announcement that Leontesí son has died of some kind of plague and that Hermione has died of a broken heart. The baby girl, Perdita, is found, along with her basket and wrapped gold and jewelry, by shepherds, who break out in celebration. .

There are musical numbers, a bear attack (with raccoon coats as props), sheep-shearing, and lighter, fancier costumes and sets as the second series of scenes leads to a frivolous mood. Ms. Abraham remains the most interesting character, who always imbues her acting with naturalness and confidence. Mr. Cover, as well, adds gesture and nuance to his role as the object of Leontesí obsession. Among the guest artists, Steve Cuiffo, in the second series of scenes, pranced about with fervor and energized personality. There seemed to be additional characters, into which secondary actors morphed, or their listed characters suddenly took on entirely different imagery. Mr. James, as Leontes, was dynamic and credible in the characterís sense of victimization, in seething revenge. The Pearl has a great lineup of upcoming plays, including Moliereís Don Juan, opening May 5, 2015. In future Shakespeare productions, they might take a page from the Graham Dance Company practice, in which the Artistic Director greets the crowd each evening and introduces the plot lines of the eveningís Greek myths and other dances. These warm and informative introductions draw the audience in.

Jolly Abraham, Peter Francis James,
Steve Cuiffo, James Udom, Adam Green
Imani Jade Powers, Rachel Botchan
in The Pearl's "The Winter's Tale" by Shakespeare
Directed by Michael Sexton
Courtesy of Richard Termine

Rachel Botchan and Dominic Cuskern
in The Pearl's "The Winter's Tale" by Shakespeare
Directed by Michael Sexton
Courtesy of Richard Termine

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at