Tiffany Scott as Perdita and Steve Wojtas as Florizel in The Winter's Tale.
Don't let the Highway 14 detour deter you from making the trip to American Player's Theatre. If you dutifully follow the orange signs, it should really only add 10 minutes to your journey. I, however, made some ill-advised maneuvers while trying to get to the opening night performance of The Winter's Tale. Though there was some stress and suspense about my arrival time, I was rewarded with another strong APT production.
APT artistic director David Frank directs, and while this is not my favorite Shakespeare, the production is still strong and compelling. The two acts are quite disparate in tone: the first is somber and emotionally charged, while the second is lighthearted. But Frank does a good job balancing.
The first act shows us how jealousy and suspicion infect Leontes, the King of Sicilia. When his lovely wife, Hermione, is able to coax their dear friend Polixenes, King of Bohemia, into extending his visit after Leontes was unable to do so himself, he begins to suspect the two of adultery and questions the paternity of his young son and the child Hermione is carrying.
Leontes asks his close advisor Camillo to murder Polixenes, but Camillo warns the Bohemian King of the plan and the two escape to Bohemia. Hermione is imprisoned and in Leontes' madness, he banishes his newborn daughter. Hermione is cleared by the Oracle of Apollo during her trial, but it is too late to undo Leontes' vengeful and senseless acts; their son has died and Hermione expires from grief. The baby's fate looks better when she is discovered by a Bohemian shepherd.
Act two takes place 16 years later and reveals that princess Perdita has grown into a lovely young woman unaware of her royal lineage. She has attracted the attention of Prince Florizel, the son of King Polixenes. Polixenes is distressed that his son has taken up with a simple shepherdess and spies on the couple with Camillo. Revealing himself to his son, he rebukes them and the two lovers run off to Sicilia. There things come to a harmonious and surprising end.
I would be hard pressed to come up with any negative comments about the cast. David Daniel as Leontes gives a vivid performance as a man whose jealousy destroys his life. He has such a kind, open face, so it is impressive to see his countenance completely change as his rage grows. Colleen Madden really moved me as Hermione. There was one moment during her trial when just a little hitch in her breath revealed her despair and desperation. It felt so real that it sent a shudder through me.
Catherine Lynn Davis' character Paulina is the play's voice of reason, and Davis convincingly conveys her sincere and loyal nature. Darragh Kennan has a quiet strength as Camillo and ages very believably in Act II. Providing some levity are the adopted brother and father of Perdita (Tiffany Scott), played by Steve Haggard and Jonathan Smoots respectively, who both offer impeccable comic timing and charisma.
The production has an austere look with mostly muted tones of grey and black until the mood lifts in the second act. Robert Morgan's costume designs are attractive and varied. Highlights for me were the richness of Herminoe's deep blue gown in the opening scene, Perdita's simple Fortuny pleated and beribboned dress and Paulina's grey, flowing Vionnet inspired gown.
Here's hoping APT will triumph over the road construction with a well-attended season.