Written by Alina Mae Wilson
Vanguard University is putting on a production of William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Unlike some other Shakespearean shows I’ve seen recently, Vanguard’s production sticks to a time period appropriate for the piece, making for a costume design scheme that is more realistic and historically accurate. This straightforward approach keeps the story, but it is somewhat lacking in creativity.
The Winter’s Tale begins with King Leontes, who becomes irrationally convinced his wife, Queen Hermione, is having an affair with another king named Polixenes. He decides to kill Polixenes, but his would-be foe escapes. Believing his wife is behind Polixenes’ successful getaway, he puts her on trial for adultery and treason. After denying the child everyone believes to be his natural-born daughter, the baby is taken to live with people of lower birth, and the question of her parentage is brought up in later years.
The floor and wall have the palatial appearance of being made entirely of stone, and the backdrop serves as a kind of screen for images to be projected onto it from time to time. It was not often used in this fashion, but whenever it was put to this use, it was for a fairly good reason –the beginning sequence of the sun and moon circling the earth to show the passage of time is mesmerizingly beautiful –and a certain scene involving a bear’s image provides much more clarity than would be bestowed upon us in the audience without it. Well suited to the simple set are the costumes, which are made of the kind of stately ruffles and silky tunics one would expect to find in a story as focused on royalty as this one is. Speaking of royalty, a hearty congratulations to the students who conducted themselves with all of the decorum I expected and more. Almost every actor in Vanguard’s cast is what I would consider an excellent performer, fully immersing themselves in every moment to the best of their abilities. There is a lot of dialogue in this show, made to seem even more exorbitant due to the fact the students are standing still for much of the time. It’s at this point I must reveal the largest problem with The Winter’s Tale –stagnation.
Our actors do not move –not nearly as much as they should anyway. It’s understandable really when you consider the majority of their rehearsals were probably spent on things like line accuracy and actual acting (I know, whoever thought actors should emote?). But The Winter’s Tale is long and filled with sentence structures modern day people typically have to work to comprehend. The best of the Bard’s tales I have ever seen were undoubtedly those putting their actors in a state of near constant movement to better illustrate what is going on in the story and provide entertainment for what will ultimately end up being a three hour show (minus twenty minutes for intermission). Vanguard’s students are quality performers, but that does not completely make up for more than two hours of rigid conversation.
I think it is worth mentioning the first and second act are totally disjointed. Act 1 is all tragedy. Act 2 is all comedy. Although it’s evident Act 2 is supposed to lighten the heavy mood cast over us after Act 1, it gives us more of a feel of being shoved into a completely different show, and therefore does little to continue the entertainment from Act 1. The Winter’s Tale is well acted, but it is strange and tiring.
February 26 – March 6, 2016
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