A king misunderstands a meeting between his pregnant wife and his longtime friend and fellow king. He thinks she has been unfaithful; she hasn’t. “And because he is a king, he acts upon it with finality,” said actor David Wald, who plays King Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, one of the most unusual of Shakespeare’s works in that it is a tragedy for three acts, a comedy in the fourth (at a sheep-shearing party, no less) and then a melding together of what went before in the fifth act. Oh, and there’s a 16-year gap somewhere in the middle of all this.
Stark Naked Theatre Company’s co-founder and director, Philip Lehl, will direct. “I’ve been teaching Shakespeare for the last five to ten years. I thought it was high time that I directed one of his plays. I’ve always thought The Winter’s Tale was a special play of his,” Lehl said.
Asked how he made his selection of eight actors who will play 25 to 30 characters, Lehl said: “First and foremost, people who could speak Shakespeare’s verse the way it needs to be spoken, and then people who can act the way Stark Naked wants people to act, which is in a natural, truthful style.”
Courtney Lomeo plays five different characters, but her main one is Paulina. “Paulina is the gentle woman to the Queen Hermione. She can stand up to the King and tell him when he’s wrong when everyone else is kissing his royal behind,” Lomeo says.
Matt Lents is both Prince Florizel and the clown. “In the second part of the play, Florizel is the romantic love interest. He’s a very easy character to like, but he’s sort of making the same mistakes Leontes is. Faced with emotions versus rationality, both are choosing emotions,” Lents said. “The clown character, I think he’s sort of an innocent, wide-eyed and unfiltered, but at the same time he’s willing to put himself in danger, so he’s a good guy.”
Although The Winter’s Tale is not much-performed, it contains one of the most repeated stage directions Shakespeare ever put in a play: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Asked how they were going to carry off that part, Lehl, in the early rehearsal phase when we talked, laughed, adding: “We’re still working on it.”
7:30 p.m. Thursdays and May 12 and 14, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Through May 16. Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832‑866‑6514 or visit starknakedtheatre.com. $20.
Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Mon., May 12, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., May 14, 7:30 p.m. Starts: May 8. Continues through May 16, 2014