The best part of Globe for All, the free tour of professional Shakespeare performances by The Old Globe, throughout San Diego County, is that one can never quite knows what to expect. This play this year, THE WINTER’S TALE proved to be no exception to inspiring delight, reflection, and a full theatrical experience to those in the community.
At the performance that I attended I saw kids dancing to the music performed, people nudging each other and nodding, while others sat in rapt attention, and a first act that ended with the entire audience growling at an actor with increasing intensity as a hungry bear.
When you take theatre out of the walls of a specific building, and out into the community, it allows those who may not have the opportunity to see professional theatre a chance to see the magic for themselves. Which is the whole point of this program; to bring theatre into the community and inspire conversations.
THE WINTER’S TALE, brings with it contemplations of power between those governing and those being governed, man and woman, truth and lies, and forgiveness and redemption. Those are all truly powerful and timely subjects.
This is a play not often seen on stages since it is more like one story told through tragedy in one act and comedy in the other.
Act one starts with King Leontes (Carlos Angel-Barajas) asking his best friend, and neighboring king Polixenes (Eric Hagen) to extend his stay. When Polixenes declines, Leontes asks his pregnant wife Hermione (Sofia Jean Gomez) to compel Polixenes to stay. When her plea is successful Leontes quickly succumbs to a fit of jealousy and suspicion that Hermione has betrayed him with his friend, and that the child she carries actually belongs to the neighboring kingdom. His actions grow more erratic and his commands more severe; he has a servant abandon the baby in the middle of nowhere, his wife pleas her innocence, and this act ends with that infamous bear related stage direction.
Act 2 finds us in the bucolic Bohemia, where the abandoned baby girl was found and raised by a kindly Shepard (Anthony Green). Now a grown up 16, Perdita (Wenona Truong) has found love with Florizel (Jersten Seraile), who is the son of the King Polixenes, but he hasn’t yet told her about that yet. (Neither has he told his father about Perdita, communication is also a theme in this play)
Angel-Barajas is excellent as the king who experiences a whole range of emotions from loving, to proud and petty, to heartbroken. It’s a seemingly improbable arc to make seemingly plausible, but is very successful here. Gomez shines as the maligned queen Hermione, and who radiates love, disillusion, and heartbreak with a bearing as regal as any queen.
Yadira Correa as Paulina is the unwavering role of conscience and common sense who does not Leontes forget the price his actions cost him. (Everyone should have a defender like Paulina).
Green is strong as both the loyal subject fated to meet that bear, as well as the comedic Shepard in the second act.
Directed by Daniel Jáquez this play is stripped down to a stirring and spritely one act. The play was fresh, fanciful, and confident making, and refreshingly gives Hermione the power of having the last word.
For many in the audience that day it was their first professional theatre performance, but based on the reactions to THE WINTER’S TALE, it is sure not to be their last.