The Holidays are a time when thoughts of our favorite people return to us, as sometimes do the people themselves. And so it is with Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, as many of our STNJ favorites grace this final production for 2018. We find ourselves in the midst of a Holiday party in the Kingdom of Sicilia, with guests of King Leontes (Jon Barker) and Queen Hermione (Erin Partin). There are drinks, flirtations, and dancing, and a truly tender moment between the King and Queen. Holiday perfection, right? But there is a fly in the ointment. Bonnie Monte’s direction of Shakespeare classic “The Winter’s Tale” shows us the spectacle of good King Leontes (Barker), gone mad with an imagined dalliance between his expecting Queen Hermione (Partin) and the brother of his heart, Polixenes (John Keabler). Jealousy may have green eyes, but it is blind to reason. Leontes’ madness sets the stage for exile of his friend Camillo (Patrick Toon), whom he dispatches to kill Polixenes. Camillo cannot perform such an unjust act and flees to Bohemia to serve Polixenes. Barker’s mad scenes, as Leontes, are on par with Lady Macbeth’s in this late career work of Shakespeare's, truly a Winter’s tale. Partin’s Hermione is regal through and through, even as her beloved husband breaks her heart again and again, unjustly imprisoning her, after impugning her honor, as well as her virtue. And Paulina, the amazing Marion Adler, gives us the woman with brilliance to play the long game. She and Hermione would make Hippolyta proud.
Raphael Nash Thompson is our Father Time, as well as the ultimately brave and delicious Antigonus. Other favorites in this production include such familiar faces from Shakespeare Gumbo as Devin Conway, Katie Langham, and Ryan Woods, and William Sturdivant’s Autolycus is one for the ages. Ames Adamson, flexing his comedic chops, with the always delightful Seamus Mulcahy, provides some much needed light after the 0-Dark-Thirty sturm und drang of Act One. It was hard to “bear” it—this will become clear when you see the show.
The technical team has created a flexible wintry wonderland. Brittany Vasta’s scenic design is well matched by Nikki Delhommse’s costumes–the second act dénouement, especially—again, no spoilers–go see the show! Tony Galaska’s lighting is atmospheric and illuminating–gently limning and shadowing at times and starkly bold at others. Monte’s sound design provides foreboding as well as joy and be sure to bring a hankie, as you may find yourself leaking a bit in the second act. The finale is truly moving and brings a salient reminder that none of us is past redemption.
Get the flavor of the season, dark and light, cold and hot, with “The Winter’s Tale.” Do it now, before your favorite seat is gone. “The Winter’s Tale” is no more after December 30, so get all of your Holiday shopping done with just one call! The gift of an experience is often one that lasts for many years. Call 973/408-5600 now or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org
for your tickets today! Happiest of Holidays!