The brilliant and ambitious Porters of Hellsgate have returned to NoHo with the rather special and rarely performed "Pericles."
This particular Shakespearean play has seen its share of controversy, not always being included in Shakespeare's folios. Most historians are convinced that only half of the play can be attributed to the bard, the second half, the first was probably written by another Jacobean writer, George Wilkins. The play’s two halves do seem to be very different and it’s fascinating to listen to the language and the rhythm of the speeches when you are aware of its origins.
(left to right) Dana Lyn Baron Cindy Nguyen Luke McClure Alexandra Wright Liza de Weerd Seneca
All that aside, The Porters of Hellsgate have taken on the challenge of bringing this most unusual of the Shakespearean folio to the stage and have succeeded quite spectacularly.
The story is pretty familiar to those who love Shakespeare. A King travels by ship, is shipwrecked a couple of times, finds a wife, loses her, has their child brought up by friends who try to kill her as she grows into a beautiful women, she escapes, is kidnaped by pirates and sold to a brothel where she tricks the men who pay for her maidenhood into leading pious lives, and is finally reunited with her father. Subsequently they are both reunited with her mother, his wife, who has been hiding out as a priestess to Dianna for 15 years. Yes, it’s a lot of story to pack in to one play, which is probably why it had two authors?
It is based on a novella written in the Middle Ages which in turn is thought to have been drawn from ancient Greek stories of Antioch and his incestuous relationship with his daughter and Apollonius of Tyre who reveals their crimes and is persecuted because of it. This becomes the catalyst in the play for the King's constant journeying, to avoid Antioch’s assassins. It’s also why he is forced to leave his daughter with friends, for her protection.
It’s complicated, clearly, and adding to the drama is the eponymous Greek Chorus that relays vital information and fills in time and logic gaps. I think the chorus is probably my favorite thing about the play, in fact, and the Porters’ players handle the darkness of it all so very well.
(front) Luke McClure (left to right) Dana Lyn Baron, Jono Eiland, Douglas Gabrielle, Leon Russom, Alexandra-Wright
It’s not the lightest of subjects for a play, although the second half, Shakespeare’s half, is a little more lyrical and his conclusions to the story calmingly satisfactory after all the incest, brothels and shipwrecks. But it’s certainly far from the darkest of Shakespeare’s work, it has its comic moments even.
The cast manages to create just the right tone for the story, sharing roles and magically transforming from one character to another on stage with flourishes and style. The casting is particularly good, matching daughters and mothers, fathers and wives, betrayers and brothel keepers. The stage is set as a ship, which is key as so much of the pivotal moments in the story take place on the sea, so the set serves as a constant reminder of the tragedy of Apollonius as well as the means to his ultimate rebirth.
It’s a long journey for Apollonius and a heartbreaking one, and although we don’t see the gods, we can tell they have a hand in his destiny…all those tempests and shipwrecks.
This is a play well worth seeing. The Porters of Hellsgate have produced a reverent yet spirited version of "Pericles," with powerful choruses and wonderfully poignant performances. What could have easily been over the top is handled with subtlety and candor. The result is a "Pericles" full of life and not weighed down by the death. So we are entertained as well as connected to the plight of these very real and surprisingly modern characters, especially considering they are based on people who walked this earth millennia ago.
I highly recommend "Pericles" by the sublime Porters of Hellsgate. A warm welcome back to NoHo!!
The Porters of Hellsgate
Whitmore Lindley Theatre Center
11006 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Friday & Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm
April 28 - June 4
Featuring the talents of:
Dana Lyn Baron
Liza de Weerd Seneca