Director Gerald Thompson, a veteran of some 15 directorial efforts around the Valley (making his debut with the Shakespeare Company), recently recalled a production of Pericles he had a chance to see at a festival about 10 years ago: "I just hated it! I'm not opposed to modern-day settings, but this was all wrong. For some reason, it was set on a tropical island, and they had two different actors playing Pericles at different ages. Just confusing and awful. In fact, when I was approached to direct this one, I first said no."
After a refresher read of the play, based on an old yarn by Chaucer's contemporary John Gower (Gower's ghost serves as the play's chorus), Thompson came around. He has found the show to be one of the most straightforward narratives among Shakespeare's works. The tale of the globetrotting prince who runs afoul of tyrannical kings and sinister riddles, mishaps at sea, hired assassins and years of separation from his beloved daughter is an epic story filled with life-or-death struggles where good reigns at the end -- the daughter, for instance, is so virtuous that when she's forced to live in a brothel, her goodness shames the clientele into reformation. As the director puts it, it's "a classic Shakespearean tragedy, but with a happy ending."
Opening performances of Pericles, Prince of Tyre are at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 8; 8 p.m. Friday, June 9; 8 p.m. Saturday, June 10; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at Cactus High School Auditorium, 6330 West Greenway Road in Glendale. Tickets are $10 and $12. The run continues through Sunday, June 25. For ticket information, call 602-272-0931.