‘The Winter’s Tale’ at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

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Jerry Dalia
Jon Barker as Leontes in "The Winter’s Tale," by William Shakespeare at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, running through Dec. 30.

“The Winter’s Tale,” known as a late romance from William Shakespeare, is currently in production at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison.

Directed by Bonnie J. Monte, the play, which she refers to as an “adult fairy tale,” brought Shakespeare’s vision of love, loss and psychological drama to stage.

Set in the two kingdoms of Sicilia and Bohemia, the play opens on Leontes (Jon Baker), the King of Sicilia, with his wife, Hermione (Erin Partin), who is currently pregnant with their second child.

The two have opened their castle doors to Polixenes (John Keabler), the King of Bohemia and Leontes’ childhood friend, who has been staying with them for the past nine months. After deciding that he has stayed too long and wishes to return home, Polixenes announces that he will depart.

Not wanting to see his friend leave, Leontes begs for him to stay longer. Becoming unsuccessful when trying to convince him, Leontes decides to have his wife Hermione plead with him on his part. Hermione agrees and after a long-winded speech, successfully convinces Polixenes to stay with the two in Sicilia.

Seeing how easy it was for Hermione to convince Polixenes to stay, he begins to suspect the two of them have been having an affair and the unborn child may be Polixenes’.

Acting without any proof or even questioning, Leontes orders Camillo (Patrick Toon), a lord who serves him, to poison Polixenes. But Camillo realizes Leontes may be acting without reason and instead warns Polixenes and he escapes.

When finding out that Polixenes has left, Leontes, now furious, publicly accuses Hermione of the affair and locks her in prison, declaring the unborn child illegitimate.

Jon Baker, who portrays Leontes, was absolutely magnificent. The production, which required him for almost every single scene, couldn’t have had a better flow because of Baker’s acting. Baker provided a monologue almost every time he was on stage and through his pages of lines did not miss a single one. The character of Leontes, who is particularly insane, was portrayed with excellence. Baker not only captures the insanity of the character but brought it to an entirely different level. When watching Baker on stage you develop emotions towards the character of Leontes which make you either want to hug him or slap him across the face. He truly stole the show.

The set, which was designed by Brittany Vasta, was one to admire. The sides of the stage were wrapped in white branches which not only provided a setting to the story but added to the seasonal theme of the show.

The stage was mostly left empty with the exception of a throne that sat in the center on a rising platform and a table on the right side. Sitting on the table was a model of a castle, which belonged to Leontes’ son. The model castle gave the audience an image of where the story was actually taking place without actually having to build the set of a castle.

“The Winter’s Tale” continues at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, 36 Madison Ave., Madison, through Dec. 30. For more information and tickets, call 973-408-5600, or visit www.shakespearenj.org.