Warm, Engaging ‘Winter’ Fills Kronauer

Stage directions are not usually considered the most integral part of a Shakespearean masterpiece. However, there is one stage direction, arguably the most famous in all his work, that is branded on the memories of all who have come across it. Act III, Scene iii of A Winter’s Tale, describes Antigonus’ departure as “Exit, pursued by a bear.” The Adams House Drama Society’s production of the play manages an exit and a roar, yet fails to conjure up a bear. The absent ursine, though, is the only aspect of the magical romance the company couldn’t recreate.

Despite a lack of witches, wizards and fairies, A Winter’s Tale, one of Shakespeare’s final plays, is easily his most magical. Curses and condemnations, prophecies and resurrections dominate the plot, while pastoral scenes infuse the work with a folkloric ethereality. In this production, quick costume changes define the multiple roles played by the performers, resulting in an almost otherworldly blurring of the notions of identity and self.

The magic extends from the text of the play to the intimate setting of the Kronauer Space in the basement of Adams House. The scenery starts out simple: a dark screen at center-stage, framed by column-like curtains hanging on either side and more lacy material suspended from the ceiling.

As the play progresses, however, the set evolves. During the Act IV prologue delivered by Time (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences student Peter K. Saval), Saval pulls a cord dangling at the front of stage left to release the overhead sheet, emphasizing how the 16 couplets mark the passage of 16 years. This fabric, the backdrop for the rest of the play, is painted in various shades of green to evoke the forest of Bohemia, the land to which the action now shifts.

Aiding the communication of the magic are the skilled performances of the actors, particularly GSAS Brett Gamboa (also the production’s director), as the Bohemian King, Polixenes, accused of cuckolding his life long friend Leontes, King of Sicilia.

Gamboa, the strongest of the cast, is always perfectly in character and avoids the temptation to go over-the-top. The same, however, cannot be said for his Sicilian counterpart (also played by Saval), whose sometimes melodramatic line readings detract from the emotional nuances of the character.

Caroline T. Koo ’04, as Paulina, the court physician, is responsible for much of the show’s trickery and carries off her role with sly charm.

As her counterpart and a similar manipulator of men, Matthew K. Hudson ’03 (as Camillo) displays a remarkable constancy. His performance is consistently on target.

Three first-years also cast seductive spells: Daniel A. Spitzer ’05 as Autolycus, the rural rogue, Alexander N. Kanter ’05 as the humorous Clown, and Matthew J. Corriel ’05, the composer of the show’s original instrumental music all turn in impressive work.

Though juicy roles and fantastical plotting make A Winter’s Tale one of Shakespeare’s best plays, its many supernatural elements make it far from easy to produce—and perhaps explains why it graces the stage so rarely.

Director Gamboa and producer Lawrence Switzky have done a magnificent job of it, however; this production of A Winter’s Tale has abracadabra-ed its way to success.

As the ill-fated Mamillius, played by Eva Furrow ’03, explains in Act II, Scene i, “A sad tale’s best for winter.” This production, though, is anything but a sad tale—it is a tale of growth and rebirth, perfect for the season.


A Winter’s Tale

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Brett Gamboa

Produced by Larry Switzky

Adams House Kronauer Space

April 19–28