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The Winter’s Tale

A Stunning Production by the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble

By Jonathan Choi

The Winter’s Tale

MIT Shakespeare Ensemble

Directed by John Hume

La Sala de Puerto Rico

March 21-23 at 8 p.m.

$6 MIT/Wellesley students, $8 general public

MIT’s premiere theater ensemble has done it again. The Winter’s Tale, performed by the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble, is a must-see production for Shakespeare lovers and the uninitiated alike. Under the talented directing of John C. Hume, actors Bob Mussett, Ken Buswell, and actress Diane L. Christoforo ’05, among others, deliver impressive performances and creative interpretations of Shakespeare’s late work. With seamless lighting, well done costume/set design, and the intimate atmosphere of a small theatre, The Winter’s Tale shocks, humors, saddens, and enlivens in a production artfully conceived and beautifully carried out.

The Winter’s Tale is neither strictly a tragedy, a comedy, a history, or a romance. One of Shakespeare’s late works, The Winter’s Tale is a problem play that is a synthesis of elements taken from all genres resulting in what director John Hume calls, “the best of all worlds.” The play viscerally opens with the jealous madness of Leontes, King of Sicilia. His brother, King Polixenes, has come from his kingdom of Bohemia to lovingly see Leontes and Queen Paulina (Rachel L. Kline ’02). Immediately taking a liking to each other, Leontes’ brother and wife raise disquieting fears in King Leontes. The unmasked affection displayed between Paulina and Polixenes pushes Leontes beyond self-control into a jealous rage and madness. His madness poisons his mind and causes great suffering in the kingdom of Sicilia. With Queen Paulina killed, Leontes’ son dead, the princess banished, and relations with Bohemia severed, act one closes. In this seemingly hopeless situation, the light-hearted spirit of spring trickles in to mend, create, and restore life.

Mussett’s interpretation and performance of the madness-drowned king, Leontes, grips the heart with his intensity and outpouring of anguish, fear, madness, and love. Mussett’s transformation and development of Leontes’ character from the young passionate jealousy of act one to the pacified twilight of mourning in the beginning of act two is beautiful to watch, as Mussett’s icy sorrow thaws in the warmth of the coming spring. The years of painful lament, regret, and sadness written in Mussett’s face wrinkle and crack apart as the light of long-forgotten joy bursts forth. Mussett’s star performance is complemented by other performances, such as the cold love of Rikky Muller ’03, the delightful innocence of Leontes’ son (Joycelyn K. D’Arcy), and the knavish cunning of the play’s clown (Christoforo).

The actors’ and actress’ performances are supported by a set that invites the audience to be moved by The Winter’s Tale. Traditional Old English costumes are used with the rest of the set, retaining traditional qualities while infusing it with a modern taste and media. A projector screen is put to effective use during the production, with computerized lighting and sound effects. In addition, the play is accompanied by an original score written by David C. Poland ’04 for flute and guitar.

Celebrate the ending of a cold winter and the coming of spring by buying a ticket for you and a friend and go see The Winter’s Tale in La Sala this weekend. The MIT Shakespeare Ensemble has put in six hard weeks of preparation to give MIT what they so passionately love, the masterpieces of Shakespeare. Come see your fellow undergraduates wallow in painful madness, reject reason for passionate love, and embrace what had been thought lost forever. Tickets are on sale for just $6 in Lobby 10. Don’t miss out on The Winter’s Tale, showing this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m.