By Brianna Chu
A Noise Within (ANW) brings Shakespeare’s romance to its stage in a more condensed and streamlined version of the five-act play, distilling it instead to two acts. Interestingly, director Geoff Elliott has chosen to set the ANW version during Mussolini’s reign, a choice which dictates the costume significantly and also the set to a slightly lesser degree. This did not seem to significantly alter the plot, however, nor did it seem to be used to make a particular statement, so perhaps this setting was simply a way to bring “The Winter’s Tale” into the more modern period of 20th century Italy.
The minimal, multipurpose set pieces helped transform the stage into a myriad of settings and were especially striking and dramatic when within the setting of Sicily, with stark black flats comprising the city’s architecture. Their matte finish also allowed for some judicious use of projections. The pieces were used to great effect for the most part; however, the locked stairs that comprised the central set piece during Hermione’s trial, while an interesting thought, led to some slightly odd and awkward blocking to compensate for the unusual structure. ANW continues to make excellent use of their space and aisles to help engage and immerse the audience.
In terms of performance, Deborah Strang stole the show as Paulina, bringing a welcome attitude and biting wit to the character. One of her early monologues even spurred an impromptu round of applause from the audience mid-scene as she made her exit. Jeremy Rabb’s performance as Camillo stood out too, as he delivered Shakespeare’s Early Modern English with an ease and clarity that benefited every scene in which he was present.
You can get your local dose of the Bard in “The Winter’s Tale” at A Noise Within until April 11.
A Noise Within
3352 E. Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena CA 91107