Broom Street Theater’s “Pericles” strips Shakespeare to the salty basics
Post by Emily Mills on 8/15/2012 4:00pm
A play written at the beginning of the 15th century may seem an odd choice for a theatre company that dedicates itself almost compulsively to producing original works – but director Greg Harris has certainly put enough of his own stamp on the material to make the current performance of William Shakespeare’s “Pericles” fairly unique to Broom Street Theater.
Harris notes that he cut nearly 1,000 lines from the script, which shows in the snappy hour and 45 minute runtime (including intermission). He’s also stripped much of the show’s customary, epic pageantry – and to good effect: There is no set, few props, and costumes are so minimal that no one wears shoes. Productions of “Pericles” often feature dozens of actors filling the rolls of 22 characters, but here Harris has made the creative choice of having just seven actors take on the parts, none of them playing fewer than three separate characters.
“Pericles” is also seemingly one of Shakespeare’s least performed plays, though it was one of his most popular during his own era (there’s also significant scholarship suggesting that he didn’t write the first chunk of the script). The story follows the trials of prince Pericles of Tyre (Sean Langenecker) as he flees his home country by sea, falls in love with a princess in another land, and then loses her during childbirth. There’s love, betrayal, and a dusting of magic to keep things interesting.
Langenecker makes for a convincing young prince pushed to his last bit of sanity by the fickle Fates, though he seems to become more at ease in the later role of the slick but charming Lysimachus. By that time, actor Matthew Korda has moved smoothly into the role of an older Pericles, after convincing portrayals of various lords: One an incestuous wretch, another a tricky but gregarious father. Meanwhile, Amanda Carroll takes on the roles of the princesses, a mother and daughter, all with the refreshingly uncomplicated ardor and anger of the young.
The production is not flawless; the number one stumbling block for actors tackling Shakespeare’s famous prose is allowing their speech patterns to fall back into the obvious rhythm of iambic pentameter, as opposed to finding a more natural cadence. Kathy Lynn Sliter, at turns hilarious and despicable in six different minor roles, demonstrated the strongest grasp of how to turn the poetry into relatable dialogue.
Joseph Lutz, Damon Butler, and Heidi Hinshaw round out the cast in a series of supporting roles, and all are well-cast. There are moments when the words clearly trip up tongues but overall each actor throws themselves into their roles with great commitment and creativity.
All in all Broom Street’s production of “Pericles” has shown that the company is capable of taking even somewhat tired material and making it seem fun and experimental.
“Pericles” runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until September 1 at Broom Street Theater, 1119 Williamson St. in Madison. Shows are at 8:00 p.m. and tickets are $9 (reserve by phone at 608-244-8338).
Emily Mills is Editor-At-Large for Dane101, as well as Editor of Our Lives Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, actor, and musician (drummer and singer in local band Little Red Wolf). Originally from several states up and down the Midwest Emily has called Madison home since 2000. Contact her at