Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Winter's Tale is one of William Shakespeare's late plays, split into a dark and melancholy first half and a sunlit, hope-filled second half. With a delicate touch, Posner brings the viewer into a neither-here-nor-there world of two remote countries that seem to exist outside of time: Luciana Stecconi's scenic design suggests the 18th century with its white furniture and glacial blue, sculpted swirls around the proscenium, while Kelsey Hunt costumes the men in voluminous pants and the women in either full skirts that fall just below the knee or flowing, floor-length robes, as well as some amusingly obvious disguises for both sexes. Jesse Belsky's lighting design incorporates atmospheric projections and a roaring storm.
The play begins in the wintry kingdom of Sicilia, where the king, Leontes (Michael Tisdale), becomes (wrongly) convinced that his queen, Hermione (Katie deBuys), is cheating on him with his friend Polixenes (Aldo Billingslea), the visiting king of Bohemia. Resisting the advice of the rest of the court, Leontes threatens his friend's life, imprisons his pregnant wife and, after the birth of his daughter, refuses to acknowledge that he is her father. Tisdale's barely repressed fury and anguish command the stage in counterpoint to Katie deBuys as the aggrieved but resolute Hermione and Grace Gonglewski as her noble chief attendant, Paulina.
The second act picks up in Bohemia in the spring 18 years later. Paulina's husband Antigonus (Eric Hissom, grave and thoughtful) had taken the baby girl away from Sicilia for her own safety, but after his untimely death, the childwho grows into a lovely young woman named Perdita (Daven Ralston)was raised by father and son shepherds (Richard R. Henry, Joshua Thomas). She finds love with Florizell (Drew Drake), the son of Polixenes, who doesn't think a prince should love a shepherdess. With the help of an exuberant trickster named Autolycus (the sparkling Kimberly Gilbert), the ragged edges get woven back together in time for a deeply moving resolution.
The fairly continuous underscoring and occasional songs help maintain the spell, using instruments ranging from piano and guitar to ukulele and African drum.