It’s a special night, indeed, when a local playwright–Ellen Margolis–can enjoy a world premiere of her own work in her own hometown. Even better, when that play is one of great intellect and wit, as Pericles Wet proved to be.
Inspired by William Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Pericles Wet reimagines the original with a contemporary twist. In both plays, Pericles (Ben Newman) is a young prince who travels to Antioch to win the hand of a princess. King Antiochus (David Bodin) has offered his daughter Hesperides (Alex Ramirez de Cruz) in marriage to whomever can solve his riddle. Those who answer wrong are executed, and several poor guys already have bit the dust by the time Pericles gets his turn.
Pericles quickly grasps the meaning of the king’s riddle, but refuses to answer. He knows the king speaks of a dark secret, and if Pericles reveals its meaning, he too will be killed. Instead, he begs for a short time “to think about it”, and leaves town on the first boat he can find.
Our hero is no sailor; in fact, he’s a wuss. And his captain (Murri Lazaroff-Babin) has little sympathy for land lubbers. Nevertheless, the two team up on many voyages and adventures, punctuated by clever dialog and allusions to greater and better-known voyages. Through many tests, Pericles emerges a hero. He marries Thaisa (Shannon Mastel), and takes to the seas again. To Antioch.
And here is where the stories diverge. During the time since Pericles left Antioch, Hesperides has had to become her own hero, and has done so at a terrible cost. The story that emerges is one that speaks to women throughout the ages.
Portland Shakespeare Project Artistic Director Michael Mendelson directs this stunning new play. Karen Rathje is managing director. PSP certainly knows how to make a statement on a shoestring, as Sarah Kindler proves with her simple but evocative set design.
This is a play that will shake you, and is not recommended for those under 16. It runs through December 17 at the Artists Repertory Theatre venue, 1515 SW Morrison, Portland.
(Photo: Alex Ramirex de Cruz as Hesperides and David Bodin as her father, in the world premiere of Pericles Wet by Ellen Margolis. Photo by David Kinder.)