The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare, directed by Joseph Ziegler, with Tony Nardi, Susan Coyne, C. David Johnson, Nancy Palk, Robert Haley, Patricia Fagan and Christopher Morris. Presented by Soulpepper at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). Runs in rep to August 12. $27-$46, stu $25. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNN
The Winter's Tale, one of Shakespeare's last plays, emotionally divides into two halves of a symmetrical whole. In the first, the jealous king Leontes (Tony Nardi) descends into tragedy as he destroys his kingdom and his happiness by accusing his wife, Hermione (Susan Coyne), of infidelity with his royal childhood friend Polixenes (C. David Johnson).In the second, comedy and forgiveness come to the fore as grace replaces retribution and families are happily reunited.
It's one of the Bard's most moving plays, and director Joseph Ziegler infuses this Soulpepper production with a powerful humanity.
At first, Nardi seems an outsider in this world. His jealousy is fearsome but his delivery of the text has a modern flavour that's different from of the other actors'. But perhaps that's the point -- in speech as well as emotional blindness, this Leontes lives in his own self-created hell.
Coyne and Johnson generate both inviting warmth and angry fire in their performances, though Patricia Fagan and Christopher Morris as their respective offspring -- charming though they are -- don't sizzle with the magic these young lovers must possess.
If the production falters further, it's in the comedy of the second half. Even though the sparkly-eyed David Storch turns the trickster Autolycus into a charming rogue, there's a flatness to the humour that drags the evening down.
It picks up in the final few scenes, however, and part of that revival emanates from the work of enchanting Nancy Palk as Paulina, the orchestrator of the show's happy ending. Her work -- first as an affectionate gentlewoman, then a demanding Amazon, and finally a conciliator of opposites -- pulsates with dramatic firstname.lastname@example.org