Winter’s Tale succeeds despite relative obscurity

Photo courtesy of Shakespeare’s Tavern

The New American Shakespeare Tavern is an original practice playhouse located just off of Tech’s campus. As its name suggests, the Shakespeare Tavern dedicates most of its time to the works of William Shakespeare and greatly enjoys performing these traditional plays.

One of the more favorable results of having a playhouse dedicated to the production of Shakespeare’s plays is that it is possible to see the lesser known works that are not particularly popular or in great demand and therefore rarely, if ever, make an appearance on a professional stage. One such play would be “The Winter’s Tale,” which the Shakespeare’s Tavern itself has not performed in over a decade.

This play is proof that just because something escapes the public’s eye does not mean that it is not worthwhile or lacking in entertainment value. “The Winter’s Tale” is one of Shakespeare’s longer plays, featuring two intermissions which conveniently divide the story into its three stages as a tragedy, a comedy and a conclusion that refuses to properly fall into either category.

The play starts off with the king of Sicillia accusing his pregnant wife, Hermione, of infidelity and imprisoning her. Throughout the first act, the king becomes increasingly enraged as various subjects and advisors attest to the queen’s faithfulness. Still in the first act, the wife and an older son die while the king orders Antigonus to bring the newborn girl, eventually named Perdita, into the wilderness and leave her to the elements.

Upon abandoning the child to the wilderness, a bear appears, and Antigonus runs from the stage, fulfilling one of the more famous and strange stage directions “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Thus ends the first third of the play.

With the first intermission over, the comedy begins as the audience is introduced to Autolicus (Matt Nitchie), described succinctly by Shakespeare as “a Rogue.” This character is a skilled pickpocket, bard and liar who provides entertainment and humor with each line. Nitchie gives a striking portrayal of the cunning and quick-minded character, drawing the audience into the play and emphasizing Shakespeare’s humor. The other aspects of this second part, following Perdita as a shepherd, are overshadowed by the rogue, but the audience greatly enjoyed the presented comedy.

The third and final section of “The Winter’s Tale” was decidedly less comedic, and since it logically came directly after the second part, it was inevitably compared to the prior presence of rogue Autolicus and paled in comparison. This third part, through no fault of the stellar actors, gave the play a rather strange end. Including mourning, love and a bit of magic, the resolution did not make much sense within the bounds of the reality portrayed in previous parts of the play. It did not, however, overshadow the play’s prior success as a comedy. The audience seemed to enjoy the play as a whole, and the actors appeared to notice, performing better as the show went on.

Though not overwhelmingly popular, “The Winter’s Tale” is not a bad example of Shakespeare, and the actors of Shakespeare Tavern have performed it in a particularly skilled fashion, making for a success of a show.

With the production coming to a close, The Shakespeare Tavern has already announced their upcoming plays through June of this year. Though “The Winter’s Tale” is perhaps the most obscure play to be shown soon, the tavern plans to perform quite a few of the Bard’s more famous works over the next few months, including “Coriolanus” and “The Merchant of Venice.” In addition to these traditional plays, the tavern also plans to perform a play by Thornton Wilder titled “Our Town.”