I recently attended a showing of Pericles at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center in North Hollywood. The actors were very much up to their tasks and I had a very enjoyable experience. I found laughter in their performance and felt the weight in their delivery of woeful moments. The players took on the numerous roles of the characters and attacked each with a uniqueness and dedication to the written word.
The play runs through June 4th and is definitely worth a visit. You can purchase tickets here.
Pericles is a curious play. I have always been a worshipper of Shakespeare, but when it comes to this play, I find my love wavering. Personally, the first act is hard to get through but once you reach the second act, you are enraptured in moment after glorious moment. This could be because a man named George Wilkins is credited with the first half and Shakespeare with the second. The two do not together flow well except for a few moments within the first hour, that set up the second act. You watch a series of short stories that do not hold a lot of weight except to set up the over arcing flow of the second act.
That being said, there are numerous moments in the text that have the real power to move you. As always, Shakespeare gives his characters honest moments of self examination that translate across time. During his numerous trails, Pericles earnestly asks a poetic, “WTF fate?!” His questions, frustrations and explorations can still be empathized when laid alongside our own experiences.
Then, at the moment his trials end and he is gifted his reward by fate, you feel a man tremble inside. You feel his humbleness and his joy and take that within you. Within the reunion, the audience is given strength to hold out for their own rewards and find the power to sustain within the text.
So while the play has gotten a less than enthusiastic welcome throughout history, it endures.
Act I Synopsis:
In the first act you are introduced to our hero, Pericles, Prince of Tyre. He is seeking a bride and travels to the kingdom of Antioch to answer a riddle that would win him the hand of a beautiful princess. When he hears the riddle, he discovers that the answer implies incest between the princess and her father king. If he answers correctly, he dies, if he answers incorrectly, he dies. He is allowed 40 days to ponder the answer and leaves. However, when Antioch’s assassin chases after him, it is discovered that he fled his kingdom of Tyre.
Pericles sets sail for Tarsus and discovers the kingdom is enduring a great famine. He gifts the country with grain, saves them and then sails off.
His ship is then caught in a storm and he, shipwrecked, washes upon the shores of Pentapolis. With the help of some fisherman, his rusty armor is restored to him and he enters a tournament to win the hand of the princess of Pentapolis, Thaisa. He wins, they fall in love and marry. On their return journey to Tyre, they are once again caught in a storm, and Thaisa seemingly dies in her childbed as their daughter Marina is born. A heart stricken Pericles places his wife’s body in a casket near the shores of Ephesus where a doctor finds her and immediately revives her. She is placed in the temple of Diana where she lives out the coming years. Meanwhile, knowing that his daughter will not survive the journey to Tyre, Pericles places her into the kingdom of Tarsus and sails home.
Act II Synopsis:
Marina has grown to be the fairest in the land. The Queen of Tarsus has grown jealous on behalf of her daughter and hires an unwilling assassin to murder Marina. Pirates capture her before the deed is done and she winds up in Mytilene, sold into sexual slavery. To the frustration of the brothel owners, with her superior grace, she convinces all the Johns that the deed is unworthy of their souls and she soon gains the love of the people.
Meanwhile, Pericles has returned to Tarsus, seeking his daughter. When he learns of her seeming death, in grief, he takes to the sea.
Pericles finds himself on the shores of Mytilene where the governor Lysimachus sees his evident grief. Seeking to cheer him up, he brings in Marina whom he has grown to love. Pericles and Marina compare their sad stories and thus learn that they are father and daughter. When the goddess Diana appears in a dream to Pericles, he feels the urge to visit her temple and there finds Thaisa. The once heartbroken family is joyfully reunited. Huzzah!