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PERHAPS PERICLES, a maybe Shakespeare script, at Cesear’s Forum

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)

It’s the responsibility of the director of a theatrical production to set the ideas, tone and movement of the actors on stage.  Sometimes, the director collaborates with the actors by allowing them input on textual decisions as well as line interpretation.  Imagine what would happen when a director allows such input on a production of William Shakespeare’s PERICLES.  This is the premise of PERHAPS PERICLES, now on stage at Cesear’s Forum.

PERHAPS PERICLES has a strange provenance.  It is sometimes credited to Shakespeare, but does not appear in the first two his folios, and only sketchily in the third.  Some sources believe that the script was written by George Wilkins, an English dramatist, pamphleteer, inn-keeper and criminal.  This theory is based on his 1608 novel, THE PAINFUL ADVENTURES OF PERICLES, PRYNCE OF TYRE, which was supposedly a true history of Pericles, he of Greek legend.

The borrowing of Shakespeare’s writing about Pericles (PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE, a play written late in the Bard’s life) for this script, makes sense as the play’s first act (actually the first two acts in the original version) basically is a debate on what to include and not include in the telling of the Pericles legend.  The last act (three acts in the original version) are what sounds to be the Bard’s telling of the tale.  To add to the mystery, Greg Cesear, Cesear’s Forum’s Artistic Director, has further honed this version.

Assuming Shakespeare did have anything to do with the script, it would be classified as one of his “romance tales.”  These tend to be highly improbable, often event miraculous happenings, asking the viewer to suspend disbelief and to watch and listen with the wonder of a child.

As the play is conceived and developed by Cesear, the romance tale description fits.

In brief, the story centers on a feud between Pericles and Antiochus, a king who is having an incestuous affair with his daughter.   Pericles marries and has a daughter.  Thinking Pericles knows of his evil deed, Antiochus sets out to destroy him.  His life in peril, Pericles flees. Years later,  thinking his wife and daughter are dead, Pericles encounters and recognizes Mariana, his daughter.  He has a dream which instructs him to travel to Ephesus, where he is reunited with his wife, and the trio live happily ever after.  Yes, this is a romance tale.

In the Cesear’s Forum version, four actors read and analyze the text, portray disjointed segments and various roles, and, according to the director, examine the role of family in society.

The production works on some levels, stumbles on others.

On the positive side, the actors are generally good, and the action moves right along.  Tricia Bestic and Rachel Wolin are excellent.

The difficulty is that unless you know the story of Pericles, the goings-on may be too abstract, especially since the flow of ideas is fragmented.  In addition, while they are quite effective, there is some over-shouting by John Kolibab (who mainly portrays Pericles) and Gilgamesh Taggett (as Antiochus and the director).  Though they convey their characters’ motivations, the loud volume in the small performance space becomes somewhat overbearing.   The same effect could have been accomplished with emphasis, rather than volume.

Capsule Judgement:  For those who are interested in seeing a version of what may be the very little performed PERHAPS PERICLES, the Cesear’s Forum’s showing is a good opportunity.

PERHAPS PERICLES runs through May 4 at 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 pm for the Sunday performances at Cesear’s Forum, located in Kennedy’s Down Under, PlayhouseSquare. For information and reservations call 216-241-6000.