Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Tusk Editor's Note: 5/31

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Tusk Editor's Note: 5/31

Article excerpt

So a bear walks into a play .... Nah. Virtual scratchout.

The Bear walks into a bar .... Nope. Not around here; not if lynching isn't on your bucket list.

Koala me jaded, but bear puns just, hum, don't work. They panda to the lowest common denominator. It's a grizzly sight.

Unbearable. Embearassing. And then something to do with Winnie the Pooh, and it all just goes dark.

I did find one I like: What do you get when you cross a Kodiak with a harp? A bare-faced lyre.

Sometimes, you must grin and ... go ahead with it.

So there's this play my group, The Rude Mechanicals, is putting on this week; it's called "The Winter's Tale." One of Shakespeare's later works, it falls into that rough-and-tumble grouping known as "trouble plays," because it's neither here nor bear ... dang it ... there, neither fish nor something not fish. It starts with three acts of unrelenting death and despair, a dearth of joy. Then it turns abruptly, on a paw.

You see, there's this bear. A gummy sort of bear, ours is; on close inspection you might see molting fur and a few teeth missing. The bear in winter.

The final two acts spin right 'round into a pastoral comedy, and despite an overweening rogue, rampant trickery and an ursine presence, most everything ends rather happily, especially odd considering that the old king, Leontes, who throws everything into a tizzy with unfounded and sudden jealousy, doesn't deserve the happiness, but could really benefit from a swift kick in the bare necessities.

Some themes recur from a similar trouble play, "Pericles, Prince of Tyre," which we put on back in 2005, to fine success; the secret lies in the cutting of dead wood from the earliest acts. And this "Winter's Tale" is of course ably cut and carved and shaped, by Steve Burch, who also directs, and Natalie Hopper, serving as dramaturg and later statuesque statue.

Like Pericles, Leontes suffers familial loss, horror even, with tearful scenes of separation. Like Pericles, Leontes is reunited with those thought lost. Difference is, Pericles is a good man; his errors are those of good will, youth and naivete; Leontes' flaws climb out of the dark like a Lovecraftian horror. …

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