Coming to The Capital Fringe Festival: ‘Pericles: Shakespeare vs. Wilkins’ by Joshua Engel

ELIZABETHAN PLAYWRIGHTS DUKE IT OUT IN PERICLES: SHAKESPEARE VS WILKINS

The Rude Mechanicals have a fondness for Shakespeare, but you can only put on Hamlet and Midsummer so many times before you start wanting to have a look at the rest of it. And the rest of it… well, it’s not always pretty.

King Simonides (Richard Fiske) gets a little too close to Pericles (Michael Dombroski). Photo by Rebecca Hranj.

Take Pericles, for example. There’s a reason it’s not performed very often. The story ranges from the unnerving (the answer to the riddle: the king is sleeping with his daughter) to the bizarre (what to do when you’ve written yourself into a corner? Add some pirates for a quick change of scenery!)

Pericles is a collaboration between Shakespeare and a deservedly-unknown author named George Wilkins. That bit of history is the genesis of the Rude Mechanicals’ production of Pericles. Rather than try to smooth over the play’s many rocky bits, it’s funnier to call attention to them. As director, I am treating the play as an ongoing struggle between the two authors for control of the play. Long-time Rude Mechanical Alan Duda plays Shakespeare, and brand-new Rude Wayne de Cesar plays Wilkins.

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.

It’s all right there in the script. I sometimes want to step out and say to the audience, ‘No, really, that’s just what it says.” I trimmed it down to an hour for Fringe, but it doesn’t make any more sense in the original play.

The show reunites several members of my wildly successful all-female Much Ado About Nothing from the 2007 Fringe run: Jaki Demarest, Morrigan Condo, Amy Davis, Lisa Hill-Corley, Erin MacDonald, and Maureen Shanahan. Mike Dombroski, who appeared in Trojan Women at last year’s Fringe, plays the hapless Pericles, tossed about by fate and the script.

The murderous Dionyza (Lisa Hill-Corley) has an ill fate in mind for her foster-daughter Marina (Amy Davis). Photo by Rebecca Hranj.

I was really amazed at how many people who had never been with the Rudes before came out to auditions. I mean, who wants to do Pericles? Michael McCarthy, Piper Ockershausen, and Richard Fiske, apparently, as well as de Cesar, who’s new to the Rudes but with years of experience on the boards. De Cesar is absolutely hilarious. He won the part at auditions as soon as he opened his mouth. Bill Jones, Moira Parham, Rebecca Hranj, Mikki Barry, Joe Kubinski, and Evan Ockershausen, all long-time Rudes, round out the cast.

Audiences loved Pericles in its original run at the Howard County Center for the Arts in January. My cast took my original concept and ran with it. They really love Shakespeare, and this was an opportunity to poke fun at both him and ourselves. I had no idea if people would find the idea as funny as I did, but they completely bought into it. Shakespeare’s fans got to see a witty take on a play they never get to see, and people who don’t know much about Shakespeare got to see it without the pomposity and seriousness that sometimes accompanies even the silliest Shakespeare comedies. It’s great doing a Shakespeare play without any expectations.

Pericles looks dubious while Shakespeare and Wilkins (Alan Duda and Wayne de Cesar) look on. Photo by Rebecca Hranj.

Venue: The Warehouse
645 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001

Click on the following performances to purchase tickets, or purchase them online.

Thurs Jul 12th 6:00 PM
Sat Jul 14th 9:30 PM
Sun Jul 15th 2:00 PM 
Wed Jul 25th 8:15 PM
Fri Jul 27th 11:59 PM
Sat Jul 28th 8:00 PM