The Winter’s Tale
Today at 1 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
$16 general admission, $11 with a student ID
Studio Theater at the Mondavi Center
The hallmark of a well-performed Shakespeare play is the degree to which a modern audience can understand the confusing dialogue. The department of theatre and dance production of The Winter’s Tale, directed by MFA candidate Patricia Miller, takes full advantage of the Bard’s sparse stage directions. The detailed and thoughtful actions successfully flesh out the often-confusing and quick-paced lines.
Interestingly, the play is neither wholly a tragedy nor a comedy. It begins in the court of Leontes, King of Sicilia, where a neighboring king has come to stay. However, Leontes’s wife seems a bit too hospitable toward the foreign King Polixenes; Leontes’s jealousy and paranoia soon threatens his friendships, family and kingdom.
Leontes, played by the extremely capable MFA student Brett Duggan, is a powerhouse of anger and expression. From the very beginning, perceptible facial twitches and vocal variations hint at both his discomfort and the raging storm of fury that is to come.
Junior dramatic arts major Christina Moore also brings expertise beyond her years as Leontes’s son Mamillus. Her childish mannerisms are flawless, as is her commitment to character even when not the center of attention.
Strangely, the play’s post-intermission is in an entirely different locale with nearly all-new characters taking place 16 years later in a Bohemian gypsy tribe. The stories may seem a bit fractured at first, but in true Shakespeare fashion, the complex connections become clearer as the play progresses.
It is here that the acting starts to be a little hit and miss, but the overall product is still good. All in all, it’s easily overlooked in the face of the cast’s exuberance, the engaging set designs and one lively discussion of dildos.
The production puts to use every resource at its disposal. The play’s main regional shift is ushered in with a charming flurry of fake snow. The actors regularly leap into the audience for a stealthy soliloquy. The suspended walkways that run the perimeter of the theater are used to their full extent for concurrent action, supernatural appearances and a location for abstract concepts (since it is a favorite haunt for the character called only “Time”).
If you couldn’t already tell from the review so far, the play is weird. For most Davis students, it’s safe to say, weird is good. Weird is exciting. Those who prefer their predictable white-bread world should stay at home. All those interested in a spontaneous jaunt into some of Shakespeare’s most enjoyable inconsistencies, check out this production.
As a parting thought and fun fact, The Winter’s Tale contains the Bard’s most famous stage direction: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” If this alone isn’t enough to get you into a seat, what is?
The Winter’s Tale runs until Feb. 22 at the Studio Theater at the Mondavi Center.
LAURA KROEGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.