It ain’t the greatest Shakespeare play, but The Winter’s Tale, Mr. Bill’s 1609 story of jealousy, banishment, and forgiveness, definitely has its moments. In the Rude Mechanicals’ production at Walker Space, perhaps the nicest is at play’s close, when Hermione “resurrects” herself from statue form. Just before her long-ago death is revealed as a ruse, the queen stands on a rock draped in a luminous white shroud that’s bathed in phosphorescent light. It’s a wonderful stage picture—full of anticipation and absolutely lovely to behold.
Director Ryan Rilette’s production is almost always sharp-looking. He stages the action in a large, rectangular bed of stones, which the cast rakes into different patterns for each scene (kicking up dust that has to be watered down, like an infield, at intermission). “Offstage” actors sit on benches along the theater walls; a house band plays the occasional rock-and-roll interlude, with a few of the songs set to lyrics by Shakespeare. It’s a visually clean approach, greatly helped by Scott Clyve’s specific lighting design, his work contrasting with the Walker Space’s black-box darkness.
But while the play looks good, the actors in the Rude Mechanicals troupe don’t really have the chops for Shakespeare. They’re all game and likable, but they’re a little too youthful, with neither the training for the demanding language nor the bearing to support the characters’ emotional weight. Not surprisingly, they’re more at ease with the play’s comic passages—ah, those rowdy rustics! That said, Chris Edwards has some solid scenes as the remorseful Leontes, Raphael Peacock is appealing as his erstwhile aide Camillo, Roxanne Raja finds some of Hermione’s hurt, and Anna Belknap possesses the kind of glow that makes her a natural as the foundling princess Perdita.