My name is Susannah and I am a Sci-fiaholic. I’ve been living what I thought was a normal life, but when I saw Shady Shakespeare’s Pericles, set in outer space, I realized just how severe the “problem” really was. I’d previously blamed the occasional understanding of obscure geek references on the result of just living in the Silicon Valley. Pericles made me realize just how big the lie I had been living was. I now know that admitting my addiction is the first step to recovery, but it’s also the first step to really enjoying this production.
There is more than a little bit of genius going on here in this production. Aside from the brilliant settings for theatre (a fun, twisty jeep ride to the evergreen-scented environs of the Sanborn-Skyline park, complete with starry skies and babbling brook) the original interpretation/sci-fi take on this rarely produced Shakespeare is perfect. In fact it’s so eerily perfect, it’s hard to tell if Science Fiction or Shakespeare came first? The storytelling structure parallel, character types and arcs almost identical, and even the language and metaphors, which reference comets and stars in the original Shakespeare text, made me seriously wonder if maybe George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry had a time machine and collaborated a bit with Wills. The infusion of the science fiction characters cleverly moved the story forward without having to alter any text. At the same time, I don’t think you lose any of the plot or language if you aren’t well versed in hyperdrives, carbonite, Klingon, Tardis or naqahdriah. Scene after scene gave way to more enriched understanding of this fanciful story of pirates, riddles and family discovered.
Kudos has to go out to the technical team. So much of the humor and the understanding and connection to the source material is due to the iconic costuming sound and props. In several cases all a character had to do was appear on stage in recognizable wardrobe and the audience exploded in laughter and applause. Was that a Flash Gordon and Captain EO soundbite I heard? I bet there are plenty of people in line offering to buy certain weapons and scenery bits after the show closes as well.
The acting isn’t flawless, but it’s polished, professional and it gets the job done. There are highlights and less lights, but when you think about it, much of our most beloved Science Fiction isn’t exactly oscar-winning, right? Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Firefly, Dr. Who, none of it takes itself too seriously and it’s nice to breathe some silliness into a play that gets a “serious” rap simple due to its language. This is actually one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and why it’s not done more, I don’t know. Great story and pretty accessible even without the awesome infusion of some of the geekiest of sci-fi homages. Also fun to watch were the actor reactions to the audience, who unabashedly react to even the most under-the-radar nods to niche sci-fi. It was a SMART audience appreciating maybe the smartest production I’ve seen at Shady.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well this production really made the Shakespeare “pop” and fully appreciated the risk taken with and the solid execution of this piece. If you get a chance this last weekend to see Pericles, do so. A supercharged, über geeky, clever interpretation of a triumphant Shakespearean play gets a solid 4 out of 5 jewels in the Princess (Leia) review tiara. By Bantha or Tauntaun, forget your fracking tribbles and get thee to Pericles. Pericles plays in repertory with King Lear at Sanborn-Skyline County Park in Saratoga through September 2nd.
**As an extra bonus, kids 17 and under are free with a paying adult and well-behaved dogs are welcome to attend too. Parking is $6 cash additional at the entrance and you should be aware that there is no cell phone signal at all in the park. It can get chilly as well so layers, coats or blankets are all options to consider.
For those of you who really want the royal treatment, two of the worlds most comfortable chairs with foot rests (I kid you not) await Crown Level Members who reserve in advance and the seats are accompanied by a bottle of wine, a picnic snack basket and other perks. This is a fantastic way to see any Shady show and the member price hugely supports the future of their productions and ability to subsidize free 17 an under attendance.