Theater review: “The Winter’s Tale” by Montford Park Players and Warren Wilson College

Photo courtesy of Montford Park Players

The collaboration between Montford Park Players and the Warren Wilson College theater department of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale is part Shakespeare and part wild Gypsy bazaar. It’s also all fun and totally enthralling, making this the second successful team up Montford has done in the past few months (after teaming up with The Magnetic Theatre for Tartuffe). Why not keep a good thing going?

The show opened at Kittredge Theatre on the campus of WWC, and transfers to the Masonic Temple in Asheville for three additional weeks. The move presented a challenge that director Candace Taylor tackled by converting the stage of Kittredge into an almost identical layout as that at the Masonic Temple. The audience is seated up close, surrounding the action on three sides; cast ambled in and sits on pillows the floor in front of the audience. The sparse stage has a large tent at one end, which actors use throughout the show. It’s an intimate setting, drawing the audience in. This is not amphitheatre Shakespeare, it’s more personal.

David Timmerman cuts a striking image as the central character, King Leontes. His regal role is infuriating to all who are watching. His petty jealousy drives him to accuse his pregnant wife, Hermoine, of infidelity with Polixenes (played by Karl Knierim), king of neighboring Bohemia. Josephine Thomas as Hermoine is a stellar new discovery for Asheville theatergoers.

Leontes’ rage leads to Hermoine’s death after she gives birth. The baby girl is ordered killed, but is saved by Danielle King’s Antigonus — who then has the joy of following one of the quirkiest of all of Shakespeare’s stage directions: “Exits chased by a bear.” Bradford Hale’s wisely funny Sheppard, and his son, dubbed “Clown” (played with expert comic skill by Devyn Ray) find the baby and some gold hidden with her, and raise her. She grows up to be Perdita, and falls in love with a boy, who ends up being descended of Bohemian royalty. Sophie Yates and Stephen Fenstermacher are wonderful as these young lovers.

Where it is going is a bit predictable, but it is fun to watch this wonderful company of actors as they take us on the journey. Kailey Larson as Camillo is a Warren Wilson standout, though all are to be credited for their skill and focus, as most of the cast never leaves the stage.

The Winter’s Tale continues its run at the Masonic Temple, through Oct. 26. Thursdays-Saturdays, at 7:30 pm., and Sundays, at 2:30 p.m.. $15. montfordparkplayers.org

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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