Magazine article The Nation

The Winter's Tale

Magazine article The Nation

The Winter's Tale

Article excerpt

Despite the lack of unity in the acting, Lamos's production achieves a cohesion, because the director has a point of view that he imposes with success. On the other hand, James Lapine's The Winter's Tale, at the Public Theater, is aimless improvisation. The actors work in whatever style they please, and, apart from James Olson as Camillo, not one of them is capable of reciting verse.

The Winter's Tale is a far more difficult play than Measure for Measure, and one in which Shakespeare broke the rules. A tragedy that is transformed into a comedy, it stretches over a sixteen-year period, going from jealousy and pain to bucolic romp and reconciliation, with no unity of time or place. Nevill Coghill called it a "dazzling piece of avant-garde work." The audience is required to respond to the story like a child, at once completely carried away and yet aware that it is, after all, only a story.

Lapine lets the company loose on this work with a blank check. The large polished wooden set is vaguely Tudor, dominated in the first act by a painting from the Italian Renaissance, and the action is framed by the antics of a commedia dell' arte Harlequin, who from time to time fishes costumes out of a box. The score by Michael Starobin (Stephen Sondheim's orchestrator) and William Finn is musical comedy; Sicilia's court is dressed in costumes from A Christmas Carol, while Bohemia is all Regency ruffles.

The acting too is an anthology. Alternately pursing his lips and gazing into space or squeezing his eyes shut to convey hysteria, Mandy Patinkin's neurotic Leontes belongs on a psychiatrist's couch on the Upper West Side rather than on the throne of Sicilia. …

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