Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
Light Side Shows Best in "Tale"
Cleveland Press August 24, 1966
"A sad tale's best for winter," says the boy to his mother, Queen Hermione.
But though "The Winter's Tale" is almost equally divided between tragedy and romantic comedy, it is not the sad tale that emerges best but the lighter aspects of the play. Or so it is in this production.
Shakespeare gets his tragedy off to a fast start when Leontes, king of Sicily, urges Polixenes, king of Bohemia, to extend his visit. When Polixenes refuses, Leontes has his wife, Hermione, urge their friend to stay.
HIS ACCEPTANCE at her request makes her husband jealous. He accuses her of infidelity, tosses her in prison, causes their son to die of a broken heart and has their infant daughter abandoned in the wilderness.
Mario Siletti attempts to show the jealousy growing at a steady rate, a difficult thing since Shakespeare has done nothing to prepare us for the king's wrath.
As it is, Leontes' maniacal jealousy is a matter of instant psychosis.
The second half of the play is on a brighter, happier plane. The infant has been taken in by shepherds and has grown into the beautiful Perdita, beloved by a disguised prince, son of Polixenes.
IN ADDITION to comic shepherds Shakespeare introduces a wonderfully funny rogue, Autolycus. Now the Shakespeare Festival players have a truly funny fellow in Hugh Alexander who is slyly mirthful as this Elizabethan con-man. He smirks and smiles, gestures assuredly, moves like a dancer.
All the major roles are well filled. Emery Battis is sensitive and feeling as Camillo, the loyal friend.
Susan Willis is a vindictive Paulina, a self-righteous and self-appointed conscience to a king.
CLARENCE FELDER IS FUNNY as the shepherd, a performance that is pure clown, though it seems to miss some of the sarcasm in the role.
Margaret O'Neill is more the humble, loving wife than a proud queen.
Norma Joseph is a radiant Perdita.
Director Lawrence Carra establishes the opulence of the court at the start of the play, then gets right down to the business of presenting the drama without slowing down for visual effects. The total structure of the play may creak as a whole, but it has some wonderful scenes and it is best to get to them quickly.
Which is what Carra has done.