Pursued by a Teddy Bear

A sad tale is best for children: Dan Cordle and Raum-Aron
photo: Joan Marcus

Have we textual exegesists been wrong all these years? Should Shakespeare's famed stage direction really have read, "Exit pursued by teddy bear?" That passing strange event occurs in Sheldon Deckelbaum's Mamillius, a "reconstruction" of The Winter's Tale from the perspective of its boy prince. Even after his Act III death, Mamillius (Raum-Aron, listed in his bio as eight and a half years old) continues to lark about with toys, jump upon his bed, and oversee the action. Raum-Aron also offers cutie-pie—if less dramatically successful—turns as Time and Autolycus.

The death of Mamillius has long troubled both readers and spectators of The Winter's Tale. Though the end of the play sees a lost daughter found and a lifeless queen revived, Mamillius and his broken heart remain in the ground. Unresurrected and unredeemed, his absence casts a pall over the play's final scenes. In light of this, it's rather brave for Deckelbaum to take this problematic character and refashion the play around him. Yet, Mamillius never feels like much more than a rehearsal tool or intellectual exercise, and a somewhat shallow one at that. Few eight-and-a-half-year-olds, however painfully adorable, have shoulders wide enough to carry an entire Shakespeare play.

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