Shakespeare Shines at The Gamm

13082676_10153433893457541_3800699716231108795_nWhat better way to spend the weekend of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary than with the bard himself? A Winter’s Tale, now enjoying a run at The Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket, seems to be the quintessential play to put on at this time. It has everything so deliciously Shakespearean: tragedy, comedy bordering on farcical, some singing, and of course quotable lines. A bear.

This production is directed by Fred Sullivan Jr., and his marks are evident. Leontes not only speaks to the audience for his perfectly executed soliloquies, but he also does so right in the aisles at times.

It’s hard to pinpoint a genre for this piece. It was originally grouped with the comedies, some call it a romance, and others say it has issues as the first and second halves aren’t similar in tone.

The show opens with Leontes, King of Sicilia (Tony Estrella) enjoying a visit from his childhood friend Polixenes, the king of Bohemia. Upon the latter stating he is to leave, Leontes asks his wife, Queen Hermione, to convince him to stay. When Polixenes agrees, Leontes naturally decides it is because the two have been carrying on a torrid affair, and that the child she is carrying is indeed Polixenes’. In a series of events, which I will not disclose here because I hate to spoil a night of theater for anyone, his newborn child ends up on the coast of Bohemia to be raised by the Old Shepherd as his own.

Of course that quick explanation does not cover everything in the show, and as a teacher I would never allow my students to write that as a summary.  However, I can’t spoil the end for you, because you should all go out and see these events unfold for yourself.

This is a big cast, and if you have ever seen anything at The Gamm you don’t need me to tell you that the performances were strong. Tony Estrella shines in everything he does, but Leontes in particular seems almost crafted for his range of abilities. From his secrets with the audience in the beginning, to the haunted look he carried in Act Two, Estrella was perfect.

Jeanine Kane plays Paulina, and has one of those voices made for Shakespeare. She was totally at ease in her role, and she did a great job.

The casting of Mark S. Cartier as the Old Shepherd, paired with Marc Dante Mancini’s Clown was nothing short of perfect. The two of them have perfect chemistry, and delivered perfectly enjoyable performances. Mancini makes quite the comedic actor — he had me in stitches!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Nora Eschenheimer’s Perdita and Jeff Church’s Florizel; they were simply charming. Bedros Kervorkian plays Mamillius and this little one, who according to his bio is no stranger to Shakespeare, handled his lines beautifully. He has a long journey of shows ahead of him for sure.

Of course, Autolycus, played by Fred Sullivan Jr., has some of the funnier moments in this play.  In the hands of Sullivan, they become even more so. This show displayed his talents sublimely. He truly is Rhode Island’s Robin Williams; his energy onstage is unmatchable, bar none.

The Winter’s Tale is a fine example of the beautiful works William Shakespeare left us. Combined with Patrick Lynch’s clean set design and Jessie Darrell Jarbadan’s charming costumes, you have a delightful evening of theater.

Autolycus states, “I understand the business,”, and who better to say that line than Sullivan, who through his performance and flawless direction has shown that he understands this Shakespeare business indeed. Don’t miss this show!

The Winter’s Tale runs until May 29 at the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theatre. You can buy tickets by calling 401-723-4266, or order them online at gammtheatre.org.

 

 

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