The Winter’s Tale

From left: Michael Herbert, Kim Krane in the CWRU/CPH MFA Acting Program production of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” directed by Geoff Bullen, in the Helen Rosenfeld Lewis Bialosky Lab Theatre at PlayhouseSquare, March 7 – 17, 2012. Also pictured: Dan Hendrock. Photo credit: Peter Jennings.

The CWRU/CPH MFA Graduate Ensemble Class of 2012 takes its final bow with William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (March 7-17) in the Lab Theatre, part of the Allen Theatre complex at PlayhouseSquare. If you have never seen a Graduate Ensemble performance, this is a good time to take a look. And at only $15, it is a very economical way to enjoy great theatre at Cleveland Play House.

The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s romance plays, also called tragicomedies. It is considered, by many, to be one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” because despite the intense psychological drama in the first act, the second act is quite comedic and offers a happy ending. And The Winter’s Tale is also unique in that it is the only Shakespeare play to skip sixteen years between acts.

For the most part, The Winter’s Tale is a story of insane jealousy and vengeance. Leontes, King of Sicilia, and Polixenes, King of Bohemia, are childhood friends. But when Leontes suspects his pregnant wife, Queen Hermione, of having an affair with Polixenes, he takes dire steps to exact his revenge. He orders that Polixenes be poisoned, Hermione imprisoned, and the baby exiled. The second act continues with the story of what becomes of that baby, a daughter named Perdita.

The Winter’s Tale was not a play with which I was familiar before seeing this excellent production. And I very much enjoyed the experience. I am always amazed at how actors can bring a story to life in such a spectacular manner, even on a nearly bare stage. The Winter’s Tale is a neat play. It starts out with a dark, intense mood, continues with some bizarre, yet humorous, scenarios, and ends on a much happier note with hope for a brighter future. Director Geoff Bullen’s staging is quite ingenious, even reminiscent of Great Lakes Theater.

The Lab Theatre is a small and intimate venue, but as with the new Second Stage, it is a flexible performance space, and various configurations can be executed. For this production, the Lab Theatre incorporates the arena configuration, a theatre-in-the-round. The audience completely surrounds the actors as they perform in the middle of the theatre.

I have always been impressed by the great talent of the Graduate Ensemble students. I hate to see the Class of 2012 leave. I have enjoyed seeing their work over the last three years. But as the Class of 2014 has already showed us, in their stellar performance of In Arabia We’d All Be Kings, they have that great talent, too. I will look forward to following all of their careers as they continue their craft.

Up next at Cleveland Play House is Red (March 16 – April 8) in the Allen Theatre. And In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play (April 13 – May 6) will close the 2011-2012 season on the Second Stage. In the Next Room will also serve as the “anchor performance” for this year’s New Ground Theatre Festival (formerly FusionFest), CPH’s highly successful multi-arts festival.

Cleveland Play House, the nation’s first and longest-running professional theatre company, continues to offer some of the very best professional theatre in the country. Now in its 96th season, it is located in the Allen Theatre Complex at PlayhouseSquare. For showtimes, pricing, and more information on the CWRU/CPH MFA Graduate Ensemble, please visit the Cleveland Play House website at www.clevelandplayhouse.com. For more information about PlayhouseSquare, its website is www.PlayhouseSquare.org.

– Submitted by Christopher S. Musselman

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