The Globe’s annual MFA production, done in collaboration with the University of San Diego program, is always a fun time, and this year’s production is no exception. “Pericles” is a surreal tale of lost love, rediscovered love, bad luck and meteorology. It’s the classic boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy meets another girl and loses her, too. There are shipwrecks, famine, storms, incest. It’s like a template for a Hollywood blockbuster.
In the story, Pericles (Lowell Byers) is looking for love. He finds it in Ephesus but in the process discovers that Antiochus (Nathan Whitmer) is having an incestuous relationship with his daughter, Pericles’ love interest. Pericles flees home to Tyre but is encouraged to take a long holiday to avoid Antiochus’ assassins. He visits Tarsus, where he solves a famine. Later he is shipwrecked, wins a tournament in Pentapolis and is rewarded with King Simonides’ (Jamal Douglas) daughter, Thaisa (Amy Blackman). A few months later, Thaisa apparently dies in childbirth while they are on stormy seas. The child, Marina (Makha Mthembu), is dropped off in Tarsus.
That’s a lot of action, and it’s not even intermission.
During all this hardship, Pericles remains a stoic character. Byers plays up this stoicism but seems to sacrifice emotional range. No such issues with Douglas as Simonides or Lindsay Brill as a brothel owner. Megan Storti also does a fine job as the narrator, Gower. However, the highlight is Mthembu, whose Marina lights up the stage.
The production does a lot with a little. Plastic tarps serve as sails, water, dirt – whatever is necessary. The direction includes several, much-needed, comic touches. When one character is killed off in narration, she simply shrugs her shoulders and sulks off the stage. There are a few of these moments, but the show could use a few more.
Altogether, a nice job by the MFAs. They turned a relatively obscure, and somewhat grim, play into a nice evening of entertainment. Extra points for the difficulty factor.