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DOUGLASS: Marquette Theatre puts interesting spin on Shakespeare’s ‘Pericles’

Marquette+Theatre%27s+production+of+Pericles+will+continue+through+April+22.+
Marquette Theatre's production of Pericles will continue through April 22.

Marquette Theatre's production of Pericles will continue through April 22.

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Marquette Theatre's production of Pericles will continue through April 22.

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As someone who had never seen a live performance of Shakespeare before, it was safe to say I had a rather unassuming outlook going into Marquette Theatre’s production of “Pericles.”

However, within the first minute of the show, the contemporary dance, costuming and music made it clear that this wasn’t going to be a typical, boring portrayal of Shakespeare.

With six different locations to move between, and most actors playing more than one role, the cast and crew did a phenomenal job keeping the audience grounded in the setting. Using lighting design and costume changes as sometimes the only indicator of a scene’s shift, it was remarkable to me how something as simple as a brighter stage and red color scheme ushered the story along.

Along with quickly moving through settings, the actors handled the tough task of transitioning from one persona to another throughout the show expertly.

The stand-out performer in this regard was Margaret Tomasiewicz, a junior in the College of Communication, who balanced the warm role of Helicanus of Tyre with the despicable Bawd of Mytilene.

No matter her role, every time Tomasiewicz appeared, she commanded the stage with projection and fluid movements.

While Tomasiewicz’s appearances studded the show, the production hit its stride near the end of the first act.

With the characters now set in Pentapolis, viewers met Simonides, played by College of Communication sophomore Dan O’Keefe, and his daughter Thaisa, played by College of Communication junior Rene Leech.

The pair’s playful portrayal of father and daughter had the crowd rolling with laughter.

Viewers then meet the main man Pericles – played by Michael Nicholas, a senior in the College of Communication – and see him engage in convincing stage-fighting, partake in a humorous parade of knights and battle for love through a face-to-face confrontation with Simonides.

Especially in the latter, O’Keefe’s homage to Shakespeare’s beloved asides made the scenes engaging for viewers.

From this lively mood, however, the cast completes a stark transition into the dark travels of Pericles and Thaisa at sea. With roaring thunder claps and an intense monologue from Nicholas, the blocking, set design and sound effects rivaled professional productions I’ve seen in the past. It ended the first act with a literal boom.

The second act of the show, while incredibly well-acted by the cast and new leading character Marina, played by Lindsay Webster, a junior in the College of Communication , lived up to my original expectations of a Shakespearean drama. Some of the audience probably enjoyed it, but my eyelids were growing a bit heavy.

The production ends with a listing of the characters and plotlines visited throughout the night’s course. And again, while I was not the best person to appreciate it, I did find myself enjoying that the lights went out on a more whimsical note.

Whether one is largely ignorant of Shakespeare’s works (as I consider myself to be), or a devoted fan, Marquette Theatre’s “Pericles” provides an interesting twist on a classic. Tickets are available here, with shows continuing through Sunday, April 22 at the Helfaer Theater.

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