Review "The Winter's Tale": Icy Betrayal Melts into Warm Ending!

Purblind Ensemble, in association with the Alluvium Group, presents
THE WINTER'S TALE

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At River Lofts, 2147 S. Lumber
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Cooper Forsman
February 25th, 26th, 27th at 8pm
Running Time:  One hundred minutes with no intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

'A fright story is the best kind of winter's tale,' says the Queen to the young Prince... right before her chapter in terror begins.  Purblind Ensemble, in association with the Alluvium Group, presents THE WINTER'S TALE.  The King asks his buddy, The Other King, to stay longer.  TOK politely declines the offer.  Next, the very pregnant queen persistently coaxes TOK to extend his vacation.  TOK amicably agrees.  TOK's trip plan changes makes the King start tripping.  The King spirals into a paranoid delusion.  He believes his wife and TOK are screwing.  He knows the unborn baby isn't his.  Where other jealous husbands in a similar situation might want to kill someone, the King actually has the authority to do it.  He orders TOK to be poisoned, the queen to be imprisoned and the newly-born Princess to be banished.  A man's castle is his home until he wrecks it.  THE WINTER'S TALE is cold, icy betrayal that melts into a warm, sunny ending.

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Shakespeare wrote dramas and comedies.  Often regarded as a 'troubled play', THE WINTER TALE starts off pure 'Macbeth' but cuts to 'As You Like It.' It's the original dramedy!  Instead of intermingling throughout, all the drama happens in Act 1 and comedy rules Act 2.  What happens between Act 1 and Act 2?  Sixteen years!  Time heals the turmoil.  In fact, Time is a character in the play.  Under the direction of Cooper Forsman, Time starts and finishes the show.  Adding a minstrel element, Justin Deming (Time) plays a banjo throughout the show.   In addition, 'Turn Around' song excerpts are interspersed to add an aging quality.  Forsman also uses slow motion, freeze framing and a ticking chant to keep Time focused.  For a small-budgeted production, Forsman makes many innovative choices for effective illustration.  Blankets and lights flickering show a levitating ghost.  A rope and red hats rock a boat in a storm.  With minimal theatrical provisions, Forsman must rely heavily on the talents of the cast to tell the tale. 

And this bare-footed ensemble 'shakes' it up just right!  With everyone else cowering to the madness, Katie Dingle (Paulina) kicks the King's ass with precision and sophistication.  Dingle emboldens with a triumphant feisty, independent attack on authority and the material.  Kevin Duvall (King) plays crazy and sorrowful with heart-gripping results.  Julia Rigby (Hermione) enchants with unapologetic dignity.  Marie Weigle (Emilia/Shepherd) goes from weeping royal attendant to laughable comedy release.  Weigle shepherds as a hilarious crusty, enterprising curmudgeon.  The entire cast energetically moves with Time to a nicely-paced conclusion.

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The only speed bump in this finely-acted production is the space.  The narrow-linear-stretched- across- the-room staging is troublesome.  Two sets of seating face opposite directions but are staggered and separated.  So, the other group is watching Time while I'm watching the wall.  The space is also located in an obscure warehouse somewhere between Chinatown and Pilsen.  It gives off an uber creative vibe but it's not conveniently located to anything.  Space and Time are important on multiple levels for this production.  The short run concludes next weekend.   See THE WINTER TALE before time runs out! 

Production photos courtesy of Oomphotography.           

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