William Shakespeare’s dramatic comedy The Winter’s Tale
has come a long way
since it was published in 1623. In director Raphael Poch’s J-Town Playhouse
production, showing at the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel
through Wednesday, modern pop folk songs have been woven into the classic tale
of love, mistaken jealousy and redemption.
Shakespeare aficionados as
well as those less inclined to his work should find something to love in this
musical version of the show. Yisrael Cohen, who plays the lead role of King
Leontes, the insecure, paranoid tyrant convinced of his wife’s infidelity, says
the songs the actors sing, as well as the chorus of strong female voices
interspersed throughout the play, help translate the complicated
“People coming who expect a usual Shakespeare show are going to be
sadly disappointed,” says Cohen. “[The music] helps the audience realize the
emotion of what’s going on.”
While several characters and scenes have
been cut for length, the original language and the essence of the story remain
Leontes, the king of Sicilia, believes his pregnant wife
Hermione, played by Lulu Dubin, has had an affair with his childhood friend King
Polixenes of Bohemia, and nothing, not even an Oracle in a courtroom, will
convince him of their innocence. Finally, when Leontes’ son dies after seeing
his mother so distraught over his father’s charge, the king has a change of
heart. The second half is much more light-hearted, as two young characters fall
in love, and Leontes is filled with remorse and joy at reuniting his
“Basically, he’s a very emotional character,” says Cohen of
Leontes. “He’s always just on the edge of losing control, but he’s still the
king and has to still maintain it.”
Alongside Cohen’s overwrought
character is Dubin, who seems to play his very opposite.
“[Hermione is] a
very reserved and proper woman being accused of something awful, but she keeps
her cool and stands up for herself the whole time,” says Dubin,
Cohen, 24, who grew up in Dallas, Texas, and has performed in several
other plays, including The Weird Sisters, another modern-interpretation of a
Shakespearean production (Macbeth), hopes viewers will understand The Winter’s
Tale in a new light after seeing Poch’s version.
“It’s a different take,”
he says. “It’s been showing for 500 years. How can you tell it the same way?
You’re going to get bored eventually.”
It’s not likely that anyone will
find this show boring, with songs by Ingrid Michaelson, Michelle Branch, Sara
Barailles, Ryan Star, The Bushwackers, Snow Patrol, and Elizabeth and the
Catapult sprinkled throughout. The actors, musically directed by Geula Atlas,
harmonize beautifully on deeply emotional songs like “Breathe” by Ryan Starr,
and “Go Away My Lover” by Elizabeth and the Catapult.
incorporates the music into the show both to break up the complicated dialogue
and to highlight the meaning of each scene.
Dubin agrees that the
enjoyable songs elevate the show, making it more entertaining for those who find
“I think the music brings a really interesting
perspective,” she says. “Music is like the relief. It brings it closer to
something [the audience] can understand.”Performances: January 21, 22
and 23 at 8 p.m. Tickets are 70 NIS, or 50 NIS for AACI members and students. To
order tickets call (02) 566-1181 or visit :http://www.aaci.org.il
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