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The Winter's Tale 

With so much going right, it's hard to tell why this clever production falls flat

Wednesday, Oct 2 2002
Lisa Peterson's new production of The Winter's Tale at the California Shakespeare Festival does so many things right it's hard to understand why the show as a whole falls flat. L. Peter Callender is a riveting, dignified king of Bohemia, Polixenes, accused by King Leontes of lusting after his wife. Hermione, Leontes' wife, gets a fierce, beautiful performance from Stephanie Roth Haberle (at least after the first scene, when she seems overly jaunty for a pregnant woman). Gina Leishman has composed a nicely understated jazz score for the cool scenes in Sicily, and DJ Quest spins house and techno for a noisy act in Bohemia (which takes place outside the amphitheater; the audience gets up and moves), where cheerful Burning Man wannabes dance in bright costumes. Colman Domingo plays a swishy, screechy Autolycus, the Bohemian rogue, rapping his Shakespearean verse and looking like the devil-spawn of Lenny Kravitz and Evel Knievel. You even get to watch Callender -- normally sober and grave -- dressed up like a rabbi and dancing. In the end, though, Peterson's production is too much giddy cleverness and not enough simple grief. The final, magical scene, instead of transforming the play from tragedy to sweet comedy, is just another fanciful moment in an overimagined show.


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