THE WINTER'S TALE, Stone Circle Theatre Ensemble, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Produced only two years ago in this same space by Shakespeare's Motley Crew, the Bard's tale of jealousy and reconciliation now returns. Heavy with wishful thinking, Shakespeare's penultimate comedy shows how wrongs committed by one generation might be set right by their unwitting children. King Leontes of Sicilia unjustly accuses his wife, Hermione, of adultery with his friend Polixenes. Sixteen years later, their daughter Perdita--a fairy-tale heroine who's been banished and raised by gentle shepherds in a pastoral golden world--falls in love with Polixenes' son. Old grievances are drowned in new love, and the dead return to life.
A fairy tale needs a light touch and a quick pace, both of which are lacking in this 190-minute staging by Angela Williams, set for no good reason between the Jazz Age and World War II. Instead of breathless storytelling, which might make us care what comes next, we get action drawn out into tedium and marred by musical interludes that trivialize the tale. The most offensive portrayal is John O'Meara's tortured Leontes: he milks every line with an unpregnant pause. As the put-upon Hermione, Charissa Armon suffers with spunk, and Tiffany Scott and Jack Vaccaro charm as the young lovers, but Terri Heffron captures none of the hilarity in Paulina's ardent defense of her mistress. Shari Haskin's uniformly excellent costumes deserve a stronger show. --Lawrence Bommer