THE WINTER’S TALE, Shakespeare’s Motley Crew, at the Athenaeum Theatre Studio. It’s no accident that Shakespeare’s early comedies happen in a day or a week, while the later comedy-romances take years to work their wonders. The Winter’s Tale needs time for its healing to happen, as amorous children right the wrongs of hotheaded parents.
The saving strengths of this Shakespeare’s Motley Crew production are its simplicity and directness, which make David Nava’s modern-dress staging a powerful pleasure. With confidence and commitment, the well-tuned cast steep each line in feeling, waste no time on declamation, and suit each action to its speech. The fulminating jealousy of Leontes as played by Ric Kraus is imponderable as an avalanche, and Laura Jones Macknin defends the virtue of his much-wronged Hermione with consummate dignity and regret. William Sidney Parker gives Camillo a stirring decency, and Karen Woditsch, far from portraying loyal Paulina as the usual hectoring scold, gives her the forbearance of a queen.
There are miscues. Replacing the bear that eats Antigonus with Kabuki-like assassins confuses matters. The omission of the rogue Autolycus (one of four characters excised) takes some spice out of the story. And the courtiers’ description of the family reunion is clumsily delivered with an excess of attitude. But overall Shakespeare’s Motley Crew makes The Winter’s Tale evergreen indeed.