Meeting the Prince of Tyre

Aug 20, 2015 | 0 comments

Young, Shipwrecked Pericles

          Young, Shipwrecked Pericles

Shakespeare named him “Pericles” and for more than four hundred years no one has known quite what to do with him. His story is not a tragedy; it has a happy ending. It is not a history; it is fiction through and through. And, strictly speaking, it is not a comedy; too many serious life lessons by far. Some call it a romance but mainly it is called Shakespeare’s “problem play.”

Musical Fishermen in Pericles

          Musical Fishermen in “Pericles”

Personally, I think Director Joseph Haj nailed it when he presented it as a folk story. “Seen on its own terms, Pericles is a playful, funny, moving, powerful meditation on what it is to be human,” he wrote. “It is a powerful story that belongs to a folk tradition, a tale that is told in both spoken text and song and passed on from generation to generation.”

When the play opens, Pericles (admirably portrayed by Wayne T. Carr) is an adolescent; at its end, he is middle aged. He endures the loss of a parent, shipwreck, privation and rebirth and, in the end, all is resolved in the manner of every good folktale.  The story quality of the play is underscored by both the presence of the narrator at crucial junctures and by the music and dance throughout.

Middle-aged Pericles

                    Middle-aged Pericles

We left the theater feeling that “Pericles” was the best of the three plays we had seen. We fully understood why it was the most popular of all of Shakespeare’s plays during his lifetime and for decades after. It is hard to understand why it fell into disregard – a situation which Director Haj feels is because scholars and critics could not fit it into traditional orthodoxies of what constitutes a well-made play.

Hooray for Haj! I’m so glad my introduction to Pericles was through his eyes. Of all the plays in the canon that I have seen (30 of the 37), I like “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” best. I highly recommend it. It will run until November 1st and most dates are already sold out, so hurry!

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