By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
If all’s well that ends well, then everything’s wonderful in the part of Shakespeare’s world that we can see from the Rogue Theatre, where a cast of 18 is presenting “The Winter’s Tale” with an exceptionally entertaining Act Two following intermission.
This play, we remember, has a serious opening act full of hand- wringing jealousy because good King Leontes of Sicilia (Joseph McGrath) believes his pregnant wife Hermione (Avis Judd) has been unfaithful with his good buddy King Polixenes of Bohemia (David Morden).
Among royal families back in the Middle Ages this was considered a very serious offense. Leontes in a frothing fit plans to poison Polixenes and have Hermione thrown into prison.
Subsequently, Hermione’s newborn baby daughter also is left in an unknown desolate spot. Too late, Leontes discovers Hermione was never unfaithful. He also learns Hermione has died of grief.
And, yes, this is the same act where a giant bear makes its entrance during the desperate search for Hermione’s daughter.
During intermission 16 years have passed, which are represented by a small chorus that includes a song and an angel holding an hourglass. Time is definitely not on the side of King Leontes.
But in that jubilant second act all the good stuff kicks in – led by Patty Gallagher’s delightful turn as the combination jester and con man Autolycus.
Adding more humor of a different sort are the dour Shepherd (David Greenwood) and a status-seeking Clown (Matt Walley).
Co-music directors Dawn C. Sellers and Paul Amiel have researched and created ample period music that fits beautifully to the song poems performed by Autolycus, while accompanying herself like a rock star on a mock instrument resembling a one-string banjo.
Still more joy comes from the social and ceremonial dances choreographed by John Gardner and Amanda McKerrow. You can pretty much think of Act Two as Shakespearean musical theater.
King Polixenes is the dominant ruler in this section of “The Winter’s Tale,” wandering aimlessly with Camillo (Steve McKee), who was once an advisor to Leontes but now serves Polixenes.
In due course, we also meet young Prince Florizel (Julian Martinez), who has taken a liking to the native girl Perdita (Dallas Thomas), an adopted daughter of the Shepherd.
Thomas in this smallish but critical role is brilliant in capturing the essence of an innocent young woman with royalty in her blood. Even if Shakespeare’s lines are complicated, Perdita’s intent is always quite clear. She is endlessly charming.
Essentially, “The Winter’s Tale” directed by Cynthia Meier delivers two short and very different plays. The domestic tragedy of Act One is followed by an absolutely winning second act that does indeed end quite well.
“The Winter’s Tale” continues through May 13 in performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, at the Rogue Theatre, 300 E. University Blvd. Musical preshow 15 minutes before each performance. The May 3 performance is sold out.
Tickets are $30, with half-price student rush (when available, with valid student ID) always 15 minutes before curtain. All tickets half-price on May 10. For details, 520-551-2053. To purchase tickets online, www.theroguetheatre.org