"Pericles, Prince of Tyre" is, dramaturgically speaking, a bit of a dog's breakfast. Scholars agree that Shakespeare's play was largely written by a collaborator -- and a hack at that. The plot includes an incestuous king, two tempests at sea, marauding pirates, a maiden sold into a bordello and a reunion between the maiden (still a virgin!) and the father who thought her long dead. As if that isn't enough, there's also a reunion between that self-same father and the wife he thought long dead.
So how does an interpreter approach such a reiterative and problematic play? As Dame Edna would have it, with plenty of "color and movement" -- qualities that director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott supplies in spades in her definitive current staging at A Noise Within.
The plot defies reiteration. Suffice to say that Pericles (Jason Dechert) must flee for his life from murderous King Antiochus (Thomas Tofel, who also doubles, movingly, as the older Pericles). After being shipwrecked, Pericles encounters his true love, the beautiful Princess Thaisa (Jules Willcox), who isn't long for this world -- or is she? Much of the action is offstage, but Gower (terrific Deborah Strang), the omniscient narrator, keeps us abreast of Pericles' hectic escapades.
Rodriguez-Elliott embraces the random nature of the piece in this blissfully eclectic production, which includes an impressively acrobatic ensemble, Ken Merckx's amazing fight choreography, Jeanine A. Ringer's versatile set, Ken Booth's subtle lighting, and, most especially, Angela Balogh Calin's sumptuous costumes, a career highlight for this designer. Robert Oriol's original music and sound design are also a highlight.
The performers are all first rate. But it is Rodriguez-Elliott's buoyant imagination that lifts this "Pericles" into the stratosphere. Indeed, some of her innovations -- martial arts priestesses performing katas in Diana's temple? -- only narrowly avoid the twee. But in combination it all works, surprisingly and sublimely.
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"Pericles, Prince of Tyre," A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Ends Nov. 24. Tickets from $34. For performance schedule, call (626) 356-3100, Ext. 1 or go to www.anoisewithin.org. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.