Review: Upon This Shore, Idle Muse’s Pericles Adaptation, Must Inject Some Excitement

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Idle Muse Theater takes on the difficult task of staging Shakespeare Pericles excitedly with the hero’s journeys to find love and home. On This Shore: A Story of Pericles and the daughters of tire, is adapted and directed by art director Evan Jackson. Set in ancient times and spoken in the Shakespearean language, the two-hour production includes two shipwrecks, knightly jousts, captures by pirates, incest, a brothel scene and a miraculous survival, all set in the midst of visits to Pentapolis, Tarsus, Antioch and the birthplace of Pericles. of Tyre.

The trips are all there, but the excitement is absent. Jackson apparently wanted to cut the usual three-hour production short, so these events are happening quickly. Your head will spin and you may lose track of the characters.

Brendan Hutt, who plays Pericles, is a fine actor with a great speaking voice and vocal presence. Helicanus, the adviser to Pericles, played by Laura Jones Macklin, also handles the Shakespearian language wonderfully, as do a few other characters. But a lot of the cast of 13 don’t, and the clarity of the language is lost, as is part of the storyline.

Linsey Falls, Brendan Hutt, Morgan Manasa and Caty Gordon. Photo by Steven Townshend, Distant Era.

The play opens with actors greeting each other with short excerpts from other Shakespearean works, famous quotes from Cleopatra, Troilus and Cressidaand Hamlet. It’s a refreshing bit of theatrics, but it could have been more dramatic.

Pericles’ visits to various sites lead to dramatic moments. In Antioch, he meets the ruler Antiochus (Watson Swift) and his unnamed daughter (Elizabeth MacDougald, whom we later meet in another form). It becomes clear to Pericles that Antiochus is guilty of a more than paternal relationship with his daughter and he swears to walk away from the scene. Later, when he arrives in Pentapolis after a shipwreck, he meets “the great Simonides” (Watson Swift) and participates in a chivalrous challenge to win the hand of his daughter Thaisa (Mara Kovacevic). In a fleeting moment, they flirt, get married, and Thaisa is ready to give birth. They embark on a sea voyage, when a storm causes Thaisa’s death as she gives birth to her daughter Marina (City Gordon), whom Pericles names for the sea where she was born.

Director Jackson’s cast is diverse and smooth, adding a modern twist to the ancient story. The simple stage design includes lighting and projection design by Laura J. Wiley with sound and music design by LJ Luthringer. Costume design is generally attractive and appropriate, especially for female performers’ dresses, but many male performers’ costumes are truly unflattering. This is especially true of the costumes worn by our hero, Pericles, who needed to visit the Greek tailor.

Watson Swift, Elizabeth MacDougald and Jennifer Mohr. Photo by Steven Townshend, Distant Era.

Pericles is listed as one of Shakespeare’s last novels (also a “problem play”), with Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and Storm. But scholars disagree that it is a Shakespearean work and was not included in the first folio. Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom believes the author of at least the first act was “a low life hack” named George Wilkins. “Even by the standards of Shakespeare’s London, Wilkins was a disreputable fellow – a prostitute, in fact, a very relevant occupation for a co-author of Pericles, although the superb brothel scenes are the work of Shakespeare. The brothel scene in act two retains the language of Shakespeare as the Bawd (Morgan Manasa) instructs his henchmen on how to market Marina’s virginity.

“Take his marks: the color of his hair, his complexion, his height, his age, with guarantee of his virginity, and shout: ‘Whoever gives the most will have it first.’ Such a young girl was not a cheap thing….

If you haven’t seen or read Pericles lately, at least read the character list and synopsis in the Wikipedia entry before seeing the play. (I wouldn’t have known who the woman who appeared occasionally in Act Two performing mysterious tasks was if I hadn’t re-read the play.)

After seeing On this shore Thursday evening, I dreamed of our hero. In my dream, the tumultuous adventures of Pericles take place in our modern era, at least in the last century. Joe Pericles, Mayor of Peoria, goes on a trip to see how other mayors are handling municipal issues. My Dream had a racial justice theme with Mayor Pericles landing in the coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina in time for the racial slaughter of white people against black business. He then reaches New Orleans where he is challenged to fight four other Krewe monarchs for first place in the Mardi Gras parade and the hand of the mayor’s daughter, Nola. During a cocktail river cruise, there is a shipwreck and Nola is thrown overboard. Disheartened, Pericles travels to Tulsa to leave his baby girl Rivera (wait, where is that baby from?) in the care of Mayor Cleon and his wife, Dionyza. The baby is safe, but Joe narrowly escapes the Tulsa massacre that kills thousands of black people and destroys the thriving black business district. Back in Peoria, he is on the Mississippi River on an oil barge with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer when the oil barge sinks and dumps thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Mississippi just off the Quad Cities. Mayor Pericles swims to shore and returns home, where he meets a young woman who turns out to be his daughter, Rivera, and reunites with his wife Nola, who survived the boating accident and runs a women’s shelter. at Moline. They celebrate.

It’s no more complicated than the actual plot of On this shore and maybe more fun. But then, it was just a dream.

On this shore by Idle Muse Theater continues through April 3 at the Edge Off Broadway Theater, 1133 W. Catalpa Ave. at Edgewater, a new small, well-designed venue. The duration is two hours, including an intermission. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for students and seniors, and $10 for Thursday industry nights. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. You can call the Idle Muse Theater box office at 773-340-9438. Covid protocols are in place; you will be required to provide proof of vaccination and wear a mask while in the theater building.

For more information on this and other productions, visit theatreinchicago.com.

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