The Winter’s Tale – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Suspicion and jealousy are emotions that exacerbate over time, causing unending problems, even from one generation to the next.

Just examine thoroughly how the ugly trait of jealousy consumes Leontes, the King of Sicilia, causing him to turn against his beloved wife Hermione and his friend since childhood, Polixenes, from the neighboring kingdom of Bohemia. Because Leontes accuses them of the sin of infidelity, he, therefore, casts the legitimacy of his newly born daughter into question and has her banished to the desert of Bohemia where she is rescued and raised to womanhood by a shepherd.

Such is the convoluted plot of William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” being performed under a desolate leafless tree in the center of Hartford Stage until Sunday, May 7. Thankfully the desert scene, under the skilled hands of scenic designer Cameron Anderson, eventually blossoms with the beauty of spring.

Billed as a comedy, “The Winter’s Tale” is like the season itself, cast initially in shadow and darkness, the decidedly blackened soul of Leontes who, despite the reassurances of his minions to the contrary, believes his wife and best friend of betraying him in the most base and deceitful of ways. Leontes, portrayed powerfully and vindictively by Nathan Darrow, feels death is the appropriate punishment for the pair of supposed infidels.

In their defense, his spouse Hermione, captured in all her purity by Jamie Ann Romero, and Polixenes, the noble Omar Robinson, do not understand these accusations and protest their innocence to no avail. What is Leontes’ proof of their crime: that Polixenes succumbs to the gracious Hermione’s entreaties to stay longer in Sicilia when he had previously refused the invitation issued by Leontes.

The loyalties of Camillo (Carman Lacivita) and Paulina (LanaYoung) are ultimately rewarded as the play’s tragedy turns to comedy when, after the passage of sixteen years, Shakespeare does what he does best and guarantees that “all’s well that ends well.” The next generation, Perdita (Delfin Gokhan Meehan), the abandoned daughter, and Florizel (Daniel Davila Jr.), the heir to the throne of Bohemia, meet and fall in love. The roguish Autolycus (Pearl Rhein) serves as a musician and court jester to enliven the festivities.

Artistic director Melia Bensussen creates a stirring tale of human frailty and final redemption, with sadness, humor and magic, of a family that falls apart and then is ultimately reunited. Musicians add to this tale of darkness and light, sorrow and joy, and weakness and strength.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday and select Wednesdays.

Watch how Leontes puts the fate of his family at risk, tests the convictions of his heart, and miraculously has the opportunity to restore almost all that he has lost.