Capital Fringe Review: ‘Pericles vs. Wilkins’ by Jessica Vaughan

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Pericles is not performed very often and local company The Rude Mechanicals from Laurel, MD offers a reason why in this shortened, but, they insist, unedited version of this Shakespeare…comedy…drama…farce?

Director Joshua Engel and the large cast plays up that confusion for all its worth. Shakespeare (Alan Duda), co-wrote it with a guy named Wilkins (the excellent Wayne De Cesar). Wilkins, it’s obvious, could not write. The play is at its best when those two are onstage, standing in for the narrator and explaining the insane twists in the plot or thrusting hastily written parchment into the actors’ hands. But the whole thing is held together by Michael Dombroski (Pericles). Dombroski manages the almost impossible feat of playing the straight man in the insanity.

Shakespeare (Alan Duda) and another sailor (Evan Ockershausen, far right) escort Pericles (Michael Dombroski), his wife Thaisa (Maureen Shanahan) and their nurse Lychorida (Mikki Barry) on a rather rickety boat. Photo by Rebecca Hranj.

The company also makes good use of it’s minimal staging and props with a clever backdrop and signage to point to the dozen locations in the play. The boat, in particular, probably had the most laughs of the evening. My favorite scene  was towards the end when things keep getting more outlandish and there is a tense moment between Marina (Amy Rauch) and her would-be assassin Thalliard (Erin MacDonald). An irate Shakespeare storms on with another parchment and the entire stage erupts with enthusiastic pirates who carry her away…on that boat which manages not to sink in a storm for once. The other actors also do a fine job of making a real character out of each of their roles. Pericles visited a lot of other kings in his travels and you know immediately which one he’s returned to visit (if not always the reason why).

Just to warn you, the play is not for the kiddies! Think of any Greek play you’ve ever seen (incest, death, rape) mashed with any Shakespeare you’ve ever seen (mistaken identity and brothels) and the possibilities are kind of awful, though the actors kept it tame and kept the audience laughing out loud. The iambic pentameter did get away from them at some points and there were minor hiccups in the unfamiliar venue, but if you love Shakespeare or you had to sit through a high school production at one time in your life or another, you will laugh…hard.  If you haven’t, come anyway, because you won’t believe the most famous playwright in the English-speaking world actually wrote this.

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For more information on the show and to purchase tickets, read our Fringe Preview.

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