Earlier this week, we went to see A Winter’s Tale by Promethean Theatre Ensemble at the Athenaeum. It’s one of Shakespeare’s last plays. It’s a strange comedy. As the director explained in the program, it’s been called a “problem play” among other things. They explain that the first half resembles a Greek tragedy while the second is a “pastoral comedy.” Some spoilers ahead. I’m going to be vague not to give a way plot points.
At it’s core, the play is about forgiveness. My fiance and I were talking about how the play is one of the few Shakespearean plays without a true villain. Sure, there is a very mistaken character who does cruel things but he’s not evil, just mad. (Now, you can argue that the repercussions of his madness make him evil but that’s a different thing. He’s not Iago, Macbeth, Malvolio…). With the one possible exception, everyone is pretty open about their feelings; they defend the wronged characters openly. No one sides with the wrongdoer. And eventually, even he sees the error of his ways.
I love that this play is again about human folly; people make terrible mistakes and act accordingly. And the play shows how this person tries to live with the knowledge of their mistake. Would that more people consider the consequences of their actions, wrong or right!
I think that this was an excellent production by the Promethean Theater group. I don’t think I’ve seen their work before but I’d be willing to see more. The acting was superb. I was particularly impressed by Megan DeLay who played Paulina. She was incredible. She’s such an articulate person and conveys the very sharp tongued of Paulina well. I love how Paulina is an extremely opinionated character who berates the king and lives despite his wrath. And while she too feels the reprecussions of the folly, she’s not punished for her outspokenness. She’s sort of the moral compass in the play. I think that it feels like Shakespeare is making up for the horrible things he’s did to Kate in The Taming of the Shrew.
And yes, this is the play with the famous stage direction “Exit stage left pursued by a bear.” It is as weird as it sounds. I’m not sure why it’s there. Maybe it’s to show how bleak the terrain is for a helpless character. Or if someone suggested a bear product placement for the play (after all bear baiting was a popular past-time at the time).
The production did blur time periods a bit. The play is set in Ancient Greece (I think); the characters consult the oracle of Delphi. The costuming was 16th-17th century Europe (maybe Italy or Spain). I think it worked. It seemed like the play was centered around Italian sounding city states of “Bohemia” and “Sicilia,”
So go forth and see this play! It is running until December 13th.