Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
The Pericles Project
In truth, the play has its problems, like the fact that the plot seems to have been concocted by throwing darts at a map of the Mediterranean. Scholars can't agree on whether Shakespeare wrote the whole thing or collaborated with a lesser playwright (and they're all lesser) or simply completed a play that someone else had started. My own guess is that Shakespeare, in middle age, decided it was time to start making some real money, so he wrote what he thought would be a crowd-pleaser, and in fact, it was one of the most popular of his plays in his lifetime.
It's a whiz-bang entertainment with a beautiful ending: not one, but two "recognition scenes." Shakespeare's Pericles is not the Athenian statesman, but "Pericles, Prince of Tyre" (a Phoenician, I assume). He travels from one seaport to another, survives two big storms at sea, takes a wife, loses her, fathers a child, loses her, and then by chance finds them both again. The coincidences are so unreal that they might actually have happened. Some of the characters engage in incest, prostitution, and murder, but there are a lot of laughs, too, and I doubt that Shakespeare meant for anyone to take it seriously.
The play is more cinematic than stage worthy, and so it's not done much. Randi Klein, who wrote and directed this adaptation, has come up with the remarkably clever idea of not trying to stage the play per se. Instead, she has given us its salient scenes, from beginning to end, as they are being rehearsed by a group of novice actors. We follow them from week one, when they are reading the script for the first time and devising backstories for their characters; to week two, when they start acting with each other, scripts in hand; to week three, when they block out the action; to week four, when they are off-book but not quite ready; to the opening night, which is heartwarming not only due to the recognition scenes but from the joy of watching beginners come into their own.
It's a fascinating look into the making of a production, and we get to see the equivalent of a highlights reel of Pericles. Randi's script feels improvisational, but in fact it's very carefully thought out. This is its world premiere, and it certainly deserves to be picked up by other theater companies. It's perfect for a company with a troupe of apprentice actors, which is what we have in this Aux Dog production.
Randi does an excellent job playing the director, seeming not to be acting at all. Likewise, the cast of apprentices, who are already good enough actors to make you believe that they are not very good actors at the beginning of the project, but over four weeks, blossom into believable Shakespeareans. Some of the cast members have more experience than others, which is the way it is in pretty much every show, so this production is as true to life as it can be.
It's an ensemble show, and the members, besides Randi Klein, are, in alphabetical order: Dalisa Contreras, Kristine Cornils, Zack Frankel, Richard Hample, Elizabeth Langston, Anne Laun, Teresa Longo (I wish she had explained how she can cry on cue), Rob Smith, Michael Wilbourn, and Eric Young. Good work by all.
You don't have to be a Pericles fan, or even have heard of it, to enjoy this fun and illuminating backstage look at how a production comes to fruition. It seems that Randi has put a lifetime of theater experience into her script, and it, like Shakespeare's play, comes to a most satisfying conclusion. I heartily recommend it.
The Pericles Project, an adaptation by Randi Klein of William Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince of Tyre, is being presented by the Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill in the X-Space. On Monte Vista NE, just north of Central Avenue, in Albuquerque. There are two remaining performances, on Saturday May 7, 2016, at 6:00pm, and Sunday May 8, at 4:00pm. Note the atypical times. Tickets $10 to $15. Info at www.auxdog.com.