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Opinion

Pared-down 'Pericles' is a spirited production

Tiffany Rachelle Stewart and Raffi Barsoumian in The

Tiffany Rachelle Stewart and Raffi Barsoumian in The Public's Mobile Shakespeare Unit production of 'Pericles.' Photo Credit: Richard Termine

While certain Shakespeare plays are performed over and over again ("King Lear" received multiple major productions this year alone), a few of his 38 plays are hardly ever done, like "King John," "Troilus and Cressida," "Henry VIII," all three parts of "Henry VI" and "The Two Gentlemen of Verona."

There's also "Pericles," an unpredictable drama full of fantasy and adventure which scholars believe was written at least in part by Shakespeare toward the end of his playwriting career.

While it is hardly in the same league as Shakespeare's best work -- it's essentially a crude version of "The Winter's Tale" -- a production of any of the rarely-seen Shakespeare plays becomes a sort of event, at least for classical theater geeks.

The Public Theater is presenting "Pericles" as part of its laudable Mobile Shakespeare Unit, which is designed to bring Shakespeare to diverse, low-income settings throughout the city. (Shakespeare in the Park may be free, but not everyone has the patience or ability to wait on line for tickets.)

After three weeks of playing prisons and community centers, "Pericles" has come home to the Public Theater so regular theatergoers can see it too.

With virtually no scenery, a handful of props, basic costumes and background music, eight young actors take on a multitude of roles ranging from a wandering prince and his followers to an incestuous king and daughter to a band of pirates.

With the text adapted to a lean 100-minute length, this spirited production emphasizes the piece's whimsical, whirlwind nature. It may not offer much insight into the human condition, but there's no time to think about that here. You're too busy following all the crazy plotting.

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