The disjointed Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a literary maelstrom of political intrigue, murder, incest, shipwrecks, mistaken identities, and pirate attacks spanning six Mediterranean cities.
Director Joshua Engel and The Rude Mechanicals have comically re-envisioned this little-known, convoluted epic as Pericles: Shakespeare vs. Wilkins, a knee-slapping war of words and fists between author William Shakespeare and his purported collaborator, the little known George Wilkins.
While publicly attributed to Shakespeare due to his fame, many of Pericles’ scenes are linked to Wilkins, an Elizabethan “pamphleteer”, innkeeper, and pimp with a fraction of the Bard’s talent. The clash of Wilkins’ amateurish writing and Shakespeare’s quality prose results in a literary mess that is ripe for parody. In Engel’s vision, the two writers’ envisioned creative struggle spills onto the stage as they rewrite scenes on the fly, much to the confusion of the actors and delight of the audience.
Wayne de Cesar anchors the game cast with his overzealous portrayal of Wilkins. He struts about the stage with unearned bravado, gesticulating wildly and fuming like a diva whenever Shakespeare interferes. Amy Rauch impresses with her theatrical range, through her startling transformation from the dimwitted servant Igorina to the well spoken, nasally congested princess Marina.
Framed by Liz McDaniel and Alan Duda’s clever set and prop designs, the rest of the cast nimbly walks a tightrope between drama and comedy as they desperately try to please both writers, like children caught between warring parents. Occasionally the supporting cast bogs down the dramatic flow with spells of forced acting, eventually compensating for lack of polish with boundless energy. The actors need not try so hard, though: Engel’s fine comic script can stand on its own, if they would only let it.
Pericles: Shakespeare vs. Wilkins is a cheeky, inventive production that gleefully blurs the line between creator and creation. It should unite drama buffs and casual theater fans alike in a shared chorus of laughter within the cozy confines of the Warehouse Theater.
Pericles: Shakespeare vs. Wilkins runs through July 28, 2012 at the Warehouse Theater at 645 New York Avenue NW, Washington DC.
Ben rates this 4 out of a possible 5.