Review: ‘Pericles’ at APT is as no one has previously seen him

The first thing you need to know about the American Players Theatre production of “Pericles Prince of Tyre” is that it is hilariously funny.

You need to know that because, once we look at the complicated plot and the very unusual way director Eric Tucker presents it, you will be tempted to run the other way fast. Don’t do that. If you have the opportunity to see it, you will love it.

Historically, Pericles, who lived about 500 years B.C., is considered a father of Athenian democracy. The play doesn’t really get into that.

In the play, Pericles begins by risking his life to win the love of the beautiful daughter of King Antiochus. The king has created a riddle that must be mastered by the suitor of said daughter. The problem is that the riddle shows the king and his daughter have an incestuous relationship.

Surmising, correctly, that his life is now in danger, Pericles flees to Tarsus, then leaves on a boat and is shipwrecked, which deposits him in Pentapolis, where he wins the heart of the fair Thaisa by triumphing in a jousting match.

The two live happily ever after, or for at least a year, until they try to return to Tyre and are once again shipwrecked, during which Thaisa seemingly dies giving birth to Marina, who Pericles gives to subjects in Tarsus to raise.

Marina, however, ends up in the hands of pirates (I’m skipping over a lot here) who sell her to a brothel.

But in the end, all’s well that ends well and everyone important is reunited.

See what I mean?

What Tucker has done with all this is to present it as a farce that somehow encapsulates the underlying dignity of the characters and the morality of the story.

Men play the parts of women. Women play the parts of men. Every character ends up being played by differing actors. Tracy Michelle Arnold is not only King Antiochus (she speaks in a Transylvanian Dracula accent) but among other roles, is the bowsprit of Pericles’ ship.

Juan Rivera Lebron is Pericles in the first act, but James Ridge is Pericles in the second act. Actors are continually emerging from a large sea chest. The whole thing is wild.

But it isn’t mindless. The story comes through. The story of love and betrayal, success and loss, of anger and reconciliation, all comes through and weirdly enough, becomes somewhat modern.

Pericles of Tyre really is worth seeing.

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