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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Barely Bearable: The Winter’s Tale Gets a Frosty Recepetion

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The Players Production of The Winter’s Tale, directed by Theater Professor David Wiles, opens this weekend at the Weitz Black Box Theater. Though the Players Production is typically the twinkle of a theater season otherwise populated by low-budget, Little Nourse shows, the big spending failed to shine this time around.

Power players Sam Braslow ’15 and Josh Davids ’15 show up early and crowned to illicit expectation, but are followed swiftly by new faces on the theater scene. The Winter’s Tale suffers from a general shortage of experienced actors in this term’s audition pool; between Bethany McHugh’s and Andrew Harvey’s comps shows, David Wiles’ player’s production relies heavily on beginner talent.

Sarah Trachtenberg ’17 assumes the role of sickly Mamillus well, issuing realistic coughs and otherwise squinting in the blinding darkness of her father’s soul, so aptly represented by his costume’s black base layer. The success of silently expressive John Cronin ’18 began received with sounds of laughter, but his performance drifted to a mute.

New and old talents alike fail to connect to their cast mates, and their performances consequently die alone, in cries of stock agony and strained joy. Each scene is a dead recitation, rather than an enlivened discourse; actors stood solemnly as their castmates belaboredly deliver lines, tragic and comic alike. The audience leaned in for each monologue, silently cheering for the actors like competitive memorization fans.

One would expect director David Wiles’ inclusion in his own cast to cinch the group dynamic; in last year’s Twelfth Night, Professor Roger Betchel’s Malvolio guided the cast’s whimsy.

Wiles, however, chose a small role (not small enough to have fully memorized, however), and perhaps as a result of him being distracted by full directorial obligations, the synergy falls short.

The Winter’s Tale was perhaps a failed experiment of Shakespeares’, a before-his-time try at bridging the oppressive gap between tragedy and comedy, an attempt to reveal the genres as different sides of the same coin. The reviewer believes, however, that the shortcomings of a refined playwright can be revived by the various directorial decisions a production can enlist, and thus the bard’s folly serves not as an excuse.

Wiles’ interpretation of the famous bear scene was compelling, but projections seemed otherwise obligatory, jerking cumulati by, as if to further demonstrate the stage’s vacuum. Actors mounted the show atop a hexagonal marble slab of a stage, offering themselves up as sacrifices to the gods of better theater. Music too failed to excite; off beat and out of tune, the show longs for Twelfth Night’s live band.

Wiles, playing the narratorial character of “Time,” brought us back from intermission with a monologue read from a prop book, setting the tone for non-devotion for the rest of the drudging show. A few forgettable scenes later, a backpacked audience member hobbled off to more fulfilling and curricular pursuits.

Perhaps the whole cast had better things to do this week and those preceding. Though the reviewer cannot claim to know what went wrong in the process of staging The Winter’s Tale, he can provide that it tastes quite like an unfinished loaf of bread fresh from the oven; the crust seems fair enough, but once one takes a bite, the dough within reveals itself, and further, like the tale of the bread, the reviewer knows not what could have been done should The Winter’s Tale have had another week with which to work. Indeed, the reviewer would scrap the project, marking it as perhaps a worthwhile exercise, but an exercise nonetheless.

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