Daniel S. Myers
Kathy Lynn Sliter and Damon Butler in Broom Street Theater's <i>Pericles</i>
Pericles isn't everyone's favorite Shakespearean play: It's seldom produced and shunned by some purists who suspect George Wilkins wrote part of the script. Luckily, Broom Street Theater doesn't focus on such quibbles. In street clothes and bare feet, a plucky cast performed a lean version of the play Friday night.
To reveal the play's heart, director Greg Harris trimmed the text and asked cast members to play multiple roles. One actor plays all of the fathers, one actress plays all of the princesses, and the rest follows suit.
Featuring pirates, prostitutes and a storyline about incest, Pericles is meant to titillate. But beyond this risqué material, it's a tale of a family torn apart and scattered hither and yon.
Prince Pericles of Tyre is a magnet for misfortune. He incurs the wrath of King Antiochus by solving a riddle about an incestuous secret. To escape danger, he boards a ship that promptly crashes. Though he woos a lovely princess and fathers a child, his beloved dies during childbirth. A betrayal, a murder plot and an abduction follow.
At times, the play can be hard to follow. Since Pericles is one of Shakespeare's lesser-known works, the plot is unfamiliar to many. The rotating cast necessitates close attention to the language. In the struggle to keep up, details can fall through the cracks.
To make matters more complicated, not all actors nail the rhythms and tones of the language. Spoken by a tentative or inexperienced actor, the words can overwhelm. It's hard for modern brains to translate centuries-old English into current lingo and grasp the meaning quickly.
That said, several actors make this task as enjoyable as possible. Blessed with a melodious voice, Joseph Lutz narrates wonderfully as Gower. Sean Langenecker is okay as the young Pericles but shines as Lysimachus, a character that seems lascivious at first but good-hearted in the end. (Though Lysimachus shouldn't have sported a a southern accent, I enjoyed him nonetheless.) Matthew Korda brought a regal gravity to each of his roles, including a mature Pericles. I appreciated how he let the words do the heavy lifting.
As Lutz explained in the pre-show spiel, Broom Street Theater keeps prices low to make theater accessible to everyone. I admire this philosophy and how the group tackles challenging work on a shoestring budget. However, I suggest reading the Wikipedia entry on Pericles, Prince of Tyre before you go.