THE HANGOVER REPORT — The Public’s fast-moving Mobile Unit production of THE WINTER’S TALE is well-told, if a bit two-dimensional

Justin Cunningham and Nicholas Hove in the Mobile Unit’s production of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale “ at The Public Theater.

Justin Cunningham and Nicholas Hoge in the Mobile Unit’s production of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” at The Public Theater.

Shakespeare’s late-career romance The Winter’s Tale has, in recent years, enjoyed an unprecedented number of stagings — many of them memorable (I particularly remember swooning over a production a couple of seasons ago at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada). This multi-generational play about jealousy and forgiveness has even spawned a gorgeous ballet choreographed by the much sought after Christopher Wheeldon.

Now it’s the Mobile Unit’s turn to put its stamp on the somewhat problematic play. The Mobile Unit, an indispensable arm of the Public Theater, brings free Shakespeare to audiences who, for one reason or another, cannot travel to the theater. In many ways, this significantly truncated and scrappily directed The Winter’s Tale, designed to be performed in venues such as hospitals, prisons, and community centers, solves much of the play’s inherent problems, most of them relating to credulity and jarring shifts in tone. Indeed, the awkward transitions between the kingdom of Sicilia and Bohemia have never been smoother. However, the severe editing has come at a price; this version loses some of the depth and mystery of the unabridged text. As a result, scenes like the final reconciliation scene, typically devastatingly moving, unfortunately now register as merely another plot point.

Nevertheless, the cast of nine perform with gusto and charisma. Their energy and enthusiasm for Shakespeare and performance is infectious; it’s so much fun just watching them be swept away by the joy of storytelling. The entire affair has been resourcefully and creatively directed by Lee Sunday Evans, who has done wonders with just essentially a bare stage and minimal props and scenery.



Off-Broadway, Play
The Public Theater’s Mobile Unit
1 hour, 40 minutes (without an intermission)
Through December 17

Categories: Off-Broadway, Theater

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