Following in the footsteps of last year’s award-winning Cymbeline, A Noise Within returns for a new season of classical theater with one more of Shakespeare’s “problem plays,” once again prompting the question, “What on earth could the so-called ‘problem’ be?” when the play in question yields results as magical as these?

PPT003-1024x819 Admittedly, Pericles, Prince Of Tyre is a bit of a mishmash. You’ve got (in alphabetical order) an assassination attempt, a corpse that’s not yet dead, famine, incest, jousts, kidnapping, ocean storms, pirates, prostitution, and more than one shipwreck— to name just some of its disparate elements, an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink storyline that is perhaps no wonder given scholars’ assertion that only the second half of the play is truly Shakespeare’s, the first fifty percent reputedly the work of a certain George Wilkins, whose name rings considerably fewer bells that Will’s.

PPT011-815x1024 A Noise Within favorite (and Scenie-winning 2010-2011 Actor Of The Year) Jason Dechert is our titular hero, who finds himself on the run following his discovery that King Antiochus of Antioch (Thomas Tofel) is involved in incestuous hanky-panky with none other than his own daughter. Shipwrecked in Pentapolis, Pericles proves victorious in a joust whose prize is the hand of the lovely Princess Thaisa (Jules Willcox). Called back to his homeland with a pregnant bride by his side, Pericles sees Thaisa give birth to a daughter while onboard ship (hence the baby’s name Marina) and then promptly die, or so he thinks.

PPT255-1024x786  Fortunately for Thaisa (buried at sea in a watertight coffin), her “death” turns out to be more than a bit of an overreaction, since she is promptly brought back to life by Cerimon of Ephesus (Deborah Strang). Less fortunately (since she believes her husband to have died at sea), Thaisa joins the holy order of the Sisters Of Diana where she remains in seclusion for the next sixteen years.

Little does Thaisa realize that Marina (Willcox again) is alive and well and a gorgeous teenager whose beauty has so raised the jealous ire of Dionyza of Tarsus (Jane Macfie) that the mother of the less aesthetically blessed Philoten orders a servant to take Marina on a cruise and kill her.

Luckily for Marina, a band of pirates arrive to abduct the beauty just in the nick of time. Unfortunately, her luck proves short-lived, said band of pirates promptly selling Marina (who’s the brown-haired spitting image of her blonde mother Thaisa) into a life of prostitution.

Or something like that.

PPT130-802x1024 If it’s not already abundantly clear, only a feat of alchemy can turn Pericles, Prince Of Tyre into theatrical gold, and director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott proves herself an alchemist extraordinaire, particularly as aided and abetted by a brilliant team of designers and a sensational band of actors.

Rodriguez-Elliott and costume designer Angela Balogh Calin (outdoing herself, which is saying something indeed) set Pericles in seven different fashion/time zones, and the results are nothing short of spectacular—from 16th Century Elizabethan collars to 18th Century French high heels (for the men as well as the women) to 19th Century English trench coats to Victorian London bowlers—in colors and fabrics each more gorgeous than the next.

PPT152-1024x819 Rodriguez-Elliott’s inspired directorial touches include pantomimed “dumb shows” in which the ensemble (dressed all in white with great big Elizabethan ruffs around their necks) act out scenes as they are being described by Pericles’ ubiquitous narrator Gower (Strang, looking like Mary Poppins in a bowler); exciting jousts fight-choreographed to perfection by Ken Merckx, with actors playing both jousters and their equine mounts; dark-bobbed priestesses at the Temple Of Diana looking and acting like characters in a Jackie Chan martial arts movie; suitcases that hold a myriad of surprises, including the skulls of those who failed to answer a certain life-or-death riddle; and more … much, much more.

The magic extends to Jeanine A. Ringer’s set, a backdrop wall of doors and drawers which open up to reveal hidden treasures, including those of the human variety; Ken Booth’s vivid lighting, which makes Calin’s and Ringer’s creations look all the more stunning; Caity Hawksley’s hair, wig, and makeup design, especially important in a production in which lead actors play at least two roles each; Kristina Teves’ imaginative props, including swords, lances, horse heads, those previously mentioned suitcases and skulls, and umbrellas galore; and Robert Oriol’s spellbinding sound design and original music.

PPT202-707x1024 Just as director Bart DeLorenzo did in Cymbeline, Rodriguez-Elliott has each of her actors play a pair of diametrically different roles. Strang’s Gower narrates with charm, flair, and gratifying clarity, and the A Noise Within legend doubles rivetingly as Thaisa’s savior Cerimon. The marvelous Dechert makes for a dashingly heroic Pericles, then gives us a deliciously comic turn as brothel owner Pander that is straight out of Dickens. Tofel is duly lecherous as the lascivious King Antiochus, then transitions movingly to an older Pericles shrunken by grief.

PPT408-1024x819 The gorgeous Willcox is ebulliently blonde as Thaisa, then quietly, movingly brunette as Marina, whose reunion scene with older Pericles a bona fide tearjerker. Michael Stone Forrest, Jill Hill, Jonathon Lamer, Macfie, and Stephen Rockwell all shine in their assorted supporting roles, with Sydney Berk, Seth Freed, Doug Harvey, Nicholas Jenkins, Chris Lanehart, Kristopher Lencowski, Jennifer Myers, Erin Scerbak, and Katelyn Schiller doing about ten times as much as A Noise Within interns are usually called on to do, and doing it quite smashingly in more costumes and wigs than I could possibly count.

Elizabeth Nordenholt is stage manager, Andrew Tisnado assistant stage manager, and Hayley Perkins assistant stage manager intern. Justin Eick is biomechanics consultant, Edison Park martial arts consultant, Lindy Dusenbery production manager, and Maria Uribe head stitcher. Terri Murray is production sponsor.

A veritable feast for the eyes and ears, A Noise Within’s Pericles, Prince Of Tyre is 2013’s most sparkling Shakespearean surprise. I haven’t had this much fun watching Shakespeare since Cymbeline, and as anyone who saw that Best Production Scenie winner can attest to, this is high praise indeed.

A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd, Pasadena.

–Steven Stanley
October 30. 2013
Photos: Craig Schwartz


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