We’re in Brooklyn

Most critics agree that about half of Pericles was written by William Shakespeare.  The other half, the first two acts, were written by a collaborator, maybe George Wilkins, an innkeeper, criminal, and associate of the King’s Men who wrote a prose adaptation of the play.  Like other late Shakespeare plays, Pericles is about fathers and daughters, and the action has a funereal quality.  However, unlike The Tempest or The Winter’s Tale, Pericles is an external play, a fairy tale that trades psychological realism for mythology.  Its characters are notable for their universality rather than their specificity.

Considering the source material, Target Margin Theater’s new production of Pericles is puzzling.  The writers, “the ensemble, designers and production team,” collaborating on the text in the spirit of the original work, elect to pepper the first few scenes with modern slang.  So, for example, when Pericles (Eunice Wong) solves Antiochus’ riddle—the king is in an incestuous relationship with his daughter—we hear from the chorus, “The dude sleeps with his daughter, yeah, for a long time.”  When Antiochus sends an assassin after Pericles, they add, “It’s very godfather.”  The effect is jarring, at odds with the tone of Shakespeare’s play, and pulls our attention away from its fantastic setting and into the mundane present.  To what end?

The action, too, lacks dynamism, and the actors frequently just stand in a line and recite their parts.  Little is done to distinguish between settings—or between characters, when the actors are sometimes required to play more than one in a single scene.  The press material suggests that director David Herskovits has framed his revival around collaboration: “Is Pericles by Shakespeare, or not?  Both And! … Target Margin creates space for shared authorship, and this production connects again to a robust tradition of storytellers trading, sharing, and just plain stealing tales.”  I was unable to discern this (or any) question as the animating force behind Herskovits’ production.

Pericles runs through April 2nd at The Doxsee at Target Margin Theater.  232 52nd Street  Brooklyn, NY.  1 hour 45 minutes.  No intermission. Photograph by Richard Termine.


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