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Thursday, June 19, 2014

A ‘Winter’s Tale’ for the Summer

Optimist takes Shakespeare to the park

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Optimist Theatre celebrates summer with The Winter’s Tale. One of Shakespeare’s most uneven works is as pleasantly disorienting as ever in a free outdoor production overlooking the Milwaukee skyline. Mark Corkins and Tom Reed star as longtime friends torn apart by suspicion of adultery. Corkins has great capacity for power and aggression onstage. Here, he is cast against some of that energy as Polixenes, King of Bohemia, who must flee the hospitality of his friend due to a misunderstanding. Corkins crafts an even-tempered approach to the role that serves it quite well.

Contrasted against Corkins is Reed as the mad King Leontes of Sicily. Reed manages intricate modulation depicting Leontes’ jealousy, which is no easy task. Beth Mulkerron is charismatic and engaging as the accused Queen Hermione. Her delicate work rendering a sympathetic Hermione is matched with the higher-energy intricacies of playing the crafty vagabond Autolycus later in the production.

Director M.L. Cogar weaves together the action of the uneven script with admirable fluidity and brisk pacing. The drama dialogues with the evening over the course of a performance. There is still light in the sky when the play opens in jovial peace. The sun sets on the turmoil as Leontes’ suspicions explode into accusations. Color and celebration return once the day has fully settled into evening. There is a celebration. A statue comes to life. Then everyone assembled disappears into the evening. It may not be Shakespeare’s most cohesive script, but it makes for a poetic night out.

Optimist Theatre’s The Winter’s Tale runs through June 29, at Kadish Park amphitheater. For more information, visit optimisttheatre.org.