The Winter's Tale | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Winter's Tale

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THE WINTER'S TALE, Footsteps Theatre Company, at the Theatre Building. In Shakespeare's late romance the injuries done by two hotheaded fathers are healed by time and their children. Jealous Leontes, king of Sicilia, is reunited with his unjustly accused and supposedly dead wife Hermione and his radiantly innocent, supposedly dead daughter Perdita, who invites reconciliation by loving Prince Florizel of Bohemia, the son of Leontes' unjustly accused lifelong friend Polixenes.

Reversing what would have been all-male productions in Shakespeare's time, Dale Heinen's staging is the latest in Footsteps' all-female Shakespeare series. Fluid and forceful, it's hypnotic in its ropelike swirl of movement and authentic in its encounters and reconciliations. (Its faults: too many roles are doubled up, and poor diction spoils the more difficult lines.) Thanks to Michelle Lynette Bush's gorgeous costumes, the hothouse exoticism of Sicilia is nicely balanced against the rustic freedom of Bohemia.

Amy J. Carle's Leontes is not as formidably angry as the plot requires, nor is Nanci Carol Ruby's Paulina a particularly passionate defender of her mistress's honor. But Karin McKie's believable Polixenes ranges easily from a much injured friend to a much injuring father, forbidding his son to marry Perdita. And the lovers are played with charm and vitality by Michelle Hensley and Robyn Payne. Meanwhile Rebecca Covey's Hermione is reason enough to see this Winter's Tale, eloquent even when silent and magnificent in the trial scene. Hermione never seems nobler or more natural than when her dignity is rooted in her innocence. --Lawrence Bommer

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