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Paulanne Simmons

“The Winter’s Tale” Ends the Summer Season

Directed by Stephen Burdman
The New York Classical Theatre
July 18 through August 7 at Castle Clinton
August 9 through 14 at Brooklyn Bridge Park
Friday to Wednesday at 7pm
Free and open to the public
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons July 26, 2016

For many New Yorkers, the best part of summer is going to the many free theatrical events the city has to offer. And one of the best of these theatrical events is New York Classical Theatre’s summer series of plays presented in various park locations around the city. This summer is all about Shakespeare. The company’s first show, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” closed July 17, and its second production, “The Winter’s Tale” runs from July 19 through Aug. 14.

What makes New York Classical Theatre special is the many innovative ways it incorporates its surroundings into the production. This means that shifts in time and space are often marked by moving the stage to a new location. When this happens, one of the actors (often without stepping out of role) invites the audience to move along too.

This arrangement works particularly well for “The Winter’s Tale” because not only does the play shift its setting from Sicilia to Bohemia and back again, it also takes a huge 16-year leap in time. These shifts give director Stephen Burdman ample opportunity to use his ingenuity moving his actors around the venue: which will be first Castle Clinton and Battery Park, then Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“The Winter’s Tale,” one of Shakespeare’s last, was originally grouped among his comedies, despite its themes of destructive jealousy and vicious marital and child abuse. But if the opening scenes, in which Leontes, King of Sicilia (Brad Fraizerr) becomes convinced his wife, Queen Hermione (Marin Lee), is having an affair with his childhood friend Polixenes, the King of Bohemia (David Heron), are dark and troubling, the second half of the play lightens up considerably with the introduction of several comic characters, including a rustic shephard (Warren Katz) and the pedlar, Autolycus (Mark August), who doubles as a pickpocket and and bawdy minstrel.

Fraizer does yeoman’s work carrying the emotional weight of the play, as he moves from suspicion to rage to contrition. While Katz and August provide the tale with robust comedy, and John Michalski makes Camillo a believably wise counselor to both Leontes and Polixenes.

Despite some fine acting, this production never delivers its full dramatic punch because the actors never address each other. Instead they persist in delivering their lines to the audience, which makes the play ressemble more a staged reading (minus the script) than an actual dramatization.

Colorful costumes, an intriguing use of the Castle Clinton space and the great outdoors go a long way to making this production a summer event not to be missed, but unfortunately, this “Winter’s Tale” never quite heats up.



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