I’ve read most of Shakespeare’s plays, but I wasn’t familiar with Pericles, Prince of Tyre, categorized as a “romance,” until I was treated to a wonderful production in West Philadelphia by the Shakespeare in Clark Park Theater Company. From what I understand, Shakespeare probably didn’t write Pericles, Prince of Tyre in its entirety. (There are those who claim that Shakespeare didn’t write any of his plays. But there will always be people like that who think they need to argue about something. Like those people who claim the Monkees of didn’t play their own instruments.) But he wrote enough of it that it has that imitable Shakespearean flavor: shipwrecks, tragically missed opportunities, secret identities, separated lovers, evil kings, cruel twists of fate and a smattering of comedy that keeps the action from devolving into melodrama.
The plot goes something like this: Evil King Antiochus of Antioch wants to keep his comely, marriageable daughter for himself. To this end, the nefarious king gives all her would-be suitors a riddle to solve that insures she will never marry any of them. Our hero, Prince Pericles, wants to marry the daughter, so he’s eager to try solving the riddle. King Antiochus tries to dissuade him, because there’s a law that whoever fails to solve the riddle, will be killed. What our hero doesn’t know is that if he solves the riddle, his goose is also cooked because the solution will reveal a sordid family secret. As Pericles guesses the meaning of the riddle, he realizes that he’s in a major pickle. He wisely resists blurting out the answer. King Antiochus realizes, however, that Pericles knows the ugly truth. He suspends the sentence, however and gives Pericles forty days before he is killed. Our hero takes this opportunity to get out of Dodge. King Antiochus hires an assassin to follow and dispatch him before he spills the beans. The play goes on from there. It’s a bit disjointed, and not all the loose ends are tied up neatly, but it was the perfect vehicle for a summer’s evening outdoors in Clark Park.
The part of King Antiochus of Antioch was performed by a giant puppet, to great effect.
Our hero realizes his mistake
A perfect representation of a sailing ship.
Acrobats comprised a big part of the performance.
The audience could scan QR codes with their phones for cues so they could participate in the performance.
The supporting players added to the overall enjoyment
The King Pericles as an old man. I am not going to tell you the play’s ending, but you can be sure it’s a happy one.
This audience member had a good time!