Original music, authentic acting, organic scenery and beautiful costumes envelop the DU Department of Theatre’s production of “Pericles,” directed by associate professor Rick Barbour. It’s a heartwarming, magical story from the opening scenes of loss and heartbreak to the closing scene of enchanting reunion. “Pericles” is unlike any other of Shakespeare’s plays, but the DU Department of Theatre approached it with a uniquely successful and modern confidence. The original script was a collaboration between the famous playwright and George Wilkins, and it consequentially seems to be flooded with inconsistencies in plot, character and themes. It is even commonly debated whether to categorize it as a comedy or a tragedy.
However, it is anything but just a weird, two-hour long play: the potentially problematic variety throughout the story, and the cast and production team’s beautiful ability to carry with it the common thread of suspense are actually key aspects that make this play so raw and worth watching.
The magic of the plot extends to the cast and production team. “Pericles” is costume designer Janice Benning Lacek’s first show at DU and scenic designer William Temple Davis’s last. Both have begun and ended their journeys with this department leaving a crisp, alluring and pristine legacy. The set is engineered out of light woods to function as a shipwrecked boat, oceansides and the cities of Antioch, Tyre, Tarsus, Pentapolis, Ephesus and Mytilene to perfectly frame each of the kings, princesses, pirates, fishers, slaves, nurses, servants and whores.
Furthermore, the clean contrast of the costumes creates such a juxtaposition of antagonist and protagonist that no script or actor could create alone. Evil characters wear modern outfits. All other characters, who are subconsciously fighting for Pericles, are dressed in traditional outfits embellished with no extra dirt or jewels. King Simonides/Gower the storyteller—both played by junior Isaiah Adams—also appropriately wears a casual hoodie beneath a blazer, exaggerating the humor of his character. The costumes are bright and clean, on par with the enchanting adjacent features of the production.
“‘Pericles’ is this little orphan, forgotten-about, disaster of a play, but when you stage it there just something magical about it, and the audiences seems to love it,” said Erik Fellenstein, senior from Arvada studying theatre and English, who plays Pericles.
The play switches from an overload of tragedy, where Pericles is separated from his confidence, his wife Thaisa (Ray Reidenbaugh, junior) and all that is dear to him, to a suddenly hilarious second half focusing on Pericle’s daughter Marina (Ashley Campbell, senior), where pirates and prostitutes kindle in a miraculous ending.
DU Theatre takes on one of Shakespeare’s most unloved, least-performed stories and makes it into one of their best productions. All should take advantage of the opportunity to walk away from the Byron Theatre after pure enjoyment and with a heart full of laughter. Tickets are available through the theatre department’s website and are selling for $10. “Pericles” hit the stage on Feb. 23 and continues through Sunday, March 5.