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Eric Tucker is America’s best classical stage director, and American Players Theater is America’s best classical theater festival. It’s fitting, then, that APT has brought Mr. Tucker to Wisconsin to stage a Shakespeare play, and that the results, performed in the company’s outdoor amphitheater, should be so miraculously memorable. “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” is rarely staged because of the near-insurmountable complexities of its plot, but Mr. Tucker has turned it into a crowd-pleaser. By turns earthy and fanciful, unabashedly absurd and divinely poetic, his production is a riotous explosion of pure joy.
Unlike Shakespeare’s better-loved plays, “Pericles” is—not to put too fine a point on it—more than a bit of a mess. A loose-knit skein of coincidence, it tells the increasingly implausible tale of a Phoenician prince who loses his wife and daughter at sea, then finds them again at the end of a string of adventures that occupy several decades and involve some 60-odd characters. What’s more, Mr. Tucker has mounted it in the crazy-quilt style of his own Bedlam Theatre Company, performing the play with 10 actors who switch without warning from part to part, changing accents as cheerfully as they change hats. But thanks mostly to his own shrewd direction and partly to the colorful, ingeniously designed costumes of Daniel Tyler Mathews, it’s not hard to stay abreast of the plot, and the occasional moments of near-chaos become part of the fun.
I use that last word advisedly, for the fundamental energy of Mr. Tucker’s “Pericles” is comic, a strategy that heightens the emotional potency of the serious passages…
Down the hill in the company’s 200-seat Touchstone Theatre, APT is presenting a revival of Jean Genet’s “The Maids” for which the word “fun” could hardly be less appropriate. First performed in 1947, “The Maids” is a claustrophobic portrait of the all-but-sadomasochistic relationship between a high-society Parisian woman known only as “Madame” (Rebecca Hurd) and her two servants (Andrea San Miguel and Melisa Pereyra), both of whom hate her—and themselves. You can interpret “The Maids” in any number of ways, but whatever it means, the play never fails to land with shattering dramatic force so long as it is paced in such a way as not to give the game away too soon. Ana Cristina (Gigi) Buffington, the director of this revival, understands the need to keep a tight rein on the proceedings, and her three actors give performances of a scalding yet controlled violence that is fearful and wonderful to behold….
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Read the whole thing here.
Eric Tucker talks about Pericles:
Ana Cristina (Gigi) Buffington talks about The Maids: