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Tim Hendrixson as Simonides in
Free Shakespeare in the Park's 2008 production of
Pericles


July 5, 2007

An entirely different story or a tale of two "Pericles"

By Susan Steinberg, The Independent
PAGE 8 - JULY 3,2008


'Pericles' features Thaisa (Emily Jordan)
and Pericles (Michael C. Storm)
Photo - Doug Jorgensen

Amazing! A play I had disdained upon reading has hit the Summer stage in two entirely different productions, and each is a winner!

I wrote a week ago about the Cal Shakes version in Orinda, a 1,001 nights tale of a hero's multiple adventures, with exotic settings, costumes, music, and characters.

Just opened in Pleasanton last weekend is S.F. Shakespeare's equally imaginative take on the same play, set in the down-home old U.S. of A. in the 1850's.

The costumes range from Appalachian to the San Francisco Gold Rush bawdy house, with the South and Texas thrown in. And so do the accents and music, with songs ranging from "I'm a Poor Wayfarin' Stranger" to "It Was sad When That Great Ship Went Down," plus a little bit of gospel thrown in.

While the twang or drawl took a bit of getting used to, the concept soon took hold with the folksy settings and props taking us back to a 19'"-Century setting.

The cast's mastery of a complex plot and their ensemble ease together was remarkable for an opening performance, especially with individuals having to play up to six parts each, complete with
changes of costumes, mannerisms and speech. Quite a tricky tour de force, but carried off with great skill and high energy.

Every actor proved excellent at enunciating the Elizabethian lines (not all of the play is actually by the Bard), but greatest bravos must go to Michael Storm. Playing the wandering hero who goes through the "Perils of Pauline" for most of his adventurous life, he has the task of convincing the audience of his real emotional turmoil in many unreal situations. Especially in the final scenes, his human emotions are movingly conveyed, ranging from anguish to joy as his lost loved ones are restored to him.

His daughter Marina, as played by Siobhan Doherty, is fully his match in eloquence and the power to move hearers to belief in her emotions. In the midst of such a fantastical plot, it's not such an easy thing to accomplish!

For amazing range of characterizations, my hat is off to Jessica Powell, who plays a King's trusted old advisor (male), a stolid nurse- maid (female) and finally, the over-the-top madam Wild West bawdy house!

Tim Hendrixson also shines in three incredibly varied roles: a villainous assassin, the jolly old king of a neighboring county, and finally, the doorkeeper and shill of the brothel, full of earthy humor
and earthier lust.

Oh, and did I mention that every one of the actors also performs on a variety of instruments from guitar and banjo to flute, whistles, fiddles, trumpet, harmonica, accordion, keyboard, percussion,
concertina, and dulcimer? Talk about versatility... These people are Jack and Jills of all arts AND they all sing as well!

Families with children enjoy all the funny business, which kept the youngsters happily entertained while the adults had the joy of free Shakespeare to delight their ears. Courtesy of the City of Pleasanton and several foundations and donors, this rich show is brought to the people at no cost (of course, most audience members respond generously to the actors' donation baskets at the end of the evening.)

So do yourself a favor and take advantage of this rare play being presented right here in the Valley. Catch S.F. Shakes "Pericles" in Pleasanton Amador Valley 'Community Park, 4301 Black Avenue, just behind the swimming pool. Performances are scheduled at 7:30 PM Saturdays and Sundays through July 13. Future venues include Cupertino, San Mateo, and San Francisco's Presidio. For more information, contact 415-558-0888 or wwwsfshakes.org.

And, please be as generous as the opening night's audiences, who obviously appreciated the professionalism and dedication of a hard-working cast and crew.

 
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