A classic tale of jealousy and love, William Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale” is known most notably for the stage direction “exit pursued by bear.” Does the Colorado State University’s theater department’s take on this Shakespearean “problem play” make it worth the three-hour commitment, or is it simply not crafted well enough to entertain audiences?
The play, which opened Friday night, tells the tale of King Leontes (played by senior theater major Jacob Brooks) as he accuses his wife Hermione (played by senior theater and business major Lauren Scott) of committing adultery with his best friend, King Polixenes (played by junior theater and sociology major Michael Butts). Leontes throws Hermione into prison and claims his son and newborn daughter to not be his own, and the story follows the results of these accusations. CSU’s production, directed by CSU theater professor Eric Prince, is a modern take on this entertaining story, filled with a cast of colorful characters and both humorous and serious scenarios.
The cast carried the play very well. Brooks plays the jealousy and later regret of Leontes with powerful depth. Scott, as well as Jasmine Winfrey, who plays Paulina, also add a certain amount of power to two of the more significant female roles in the story. For the most part, the significant characters in the story all carried depth that added to the authenticity of the story. Even the less serious parts, namely the zealous Bohemian rogue, Autolycus, played by Kyle Phibbs, add comic relief that comes across well, considering the age of the play. Overall, I had no complaints with any of the cast, and the play felt very alive, which can be a common complaint of Shakespeare done poorly.
By far my favorite part of this production was the set design. Although the costumes were well-crafted, and reflected the modern aesthetic of this production, the set was incredibly powerful, despite its simplicity at times. The sets all contained authentic modern props, which was a nice change from the common era pieces seen in many Shakespeare productions. The modern style of both the lavish scenes in act I, and the more country-esque settings in act II were realistic. I had no trouble imagining the surrounding settings, even when there was little on the stage itself.
By far the most powerful aspect of the set design was the use of projections onto the back of the set, especially in one scene where a character’s face is televised live behind the cast as they deliver a powerful performance. This use of technology works exceptionally well with the modern style of the production, and set designer Roger Hanna should be proud of the power the set had on the play itself.
By far my biggest complaint stemmed from not this production of the play, but from the play itself. While it is a very entertaining story, the run-time of three hours with a ten minute intermission was a lot to take in. The story is long and complex, and I did find myself wondering when the story might wrap up around the two hour mark. Also, despite the modern styling of the play, the script still uses the original text, so those who are not comfortable with classic Elizabethan language might wish to take this into account.
Overall, I find that it is not my job as a theater critic to decide whether a play is “good” or not, but rather to determine if it is a good play told well or not. In this case, it is told exceptionally well, with a strong cast and beautiful set and costume design.
Final Grade: A
For any classic Shakespeare fan who has seen “Winter’s Tale” before or not, this production is absolutely worth seeing, especially considering the free ticket opportunity for students. The play runs through Dec. 13, with multiple showings on weekends.
Collegian Reporter Chapman W. Croskell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Nescwick.