By Mary Boyle
When you're a really big fan of Shakespeare, a fun thing to do is to go see a play attributed to him that scholars have argued about for centuries. Did the Bard actually write it at all? If he co-wrote it, who wrote it with him? Is this play actually good, or do we just think so because it's associated with the Bard? Luckily, the students at Marquette University are offering that very opportunity with their production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
Directed by Jamie Cheatham, Pericles feels like a mashup between Comedy of Errors (there's the shipwreck, Ephesus, and an infant separated from their father) and The Odyssey (it seems as though the Gods are definitely messing with our heroic Prince), but cobbled together by a far lesser writer than Shakespeare or Homer. The cobbled parts are the chorus; transitional pieces that are clearly different from the main dialogue of the play. In between those cobbled parts, though, there can be found some clearly recognizable comedy and tragedy, mixed in with a liberal dose of lewdness that exceeds the normal bounds of Shakespeare (I'm all for culture, but this play is not for young audiences).
Pericles (Michael Nicholas), the aforementioned Prince of 'Tyre, sets off to solve a riddle that could either win him the beautiful daughter of King Antiochus (A.J. Magoon), or cost him his life. When Pericles realizes the answer to the riddle is that the King and his daughter are having an incestous relationship, he's not willing to die for that. Leaving his advisor, Helicanus (Margaret Tomasiewicz) in charge of Tyre, Pericles flees to Tarsus to avoid the wrath of the King. After saving the famine-ridden kingdom with grain from his ship, Pericles is on his way again when his ship is destroyed in a storm, and he is washed up in Pentapolis, where he hears of a tournament to win the daughter of King Simonides (Dan O'Keefe) and tries his luck again. This time, fortune seems to smile on him, because he not only wins the tournament, but he and the King's daughter, Thaisa (Rene Leech), fall like rocks for each other, and are expecting a child when Pericles is called back to Tyre by his nobles. Alas, another tempest finds our hero who, along with his wife and his daughter, Marina (Lindsay Webster), seem doomed to suffer loss after horrible loss.
Thankfully, despite the series of tragic events, this play is not a tragedy, and nor is the production of it. A.J. Magoon (a founding member of the Summit Players), who plays multiple parts, is always fun to watch, and Michael Nicholas (who has also been seen on the Summit stage) is excellent as Pericles. Though Shakespeare cannot be credited with all of it, this rarely-performed work is a special treat to see, and truly has something for everyone, veering from exceptionally funny to sweetly romantic to crushingly sad. Throw in a gang of unruly pirates and an epic, slo-mo fight scene, and you've got yourself a crowd-pleasing play!
Pericles, Prince of Tyre runs through Sunday, april 22nd at the Helfaer Theatre, located at 525 N. 13th Street in Milwaukee. Tickets are $20, and may be purchased by calling (414) 288-7504, online at https://www.showclix.com/events/marquettetheatre, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.